Griffin’s South breakthrough

Four golfers whose names don’t really ring a bell for followers of the amateur game have qualified for this morning’s semi-finals of the Clare Coast Hotels South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.

Griffin’s South breakthrough

Eanna Griffin (Waterford), 21, meets Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park), 19, in the first match off at 8.30am and they will be followed a quarter of an hour later by close friends Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock), 25, and Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin), 26, with the final scheduled for 2pm.

Although Joe Brown, who won the event three times between 1932 and ’58, and Michael Burns, the 1980 champion, have brought the coveted trophy to Waterford in the past, Eanna Griffin would be the first member of Waterford Golf Club to do so. A 21 year-old from Slieveroe just outside the city, he was a relative latecomer to golf and made little or no impression in his early teen years before suddenly blossoming a couple of years ago.

“I just wasn’t good enough in boys and youths golf before things began to happen and I was down to scratch at the beginning of this year”, he said.

“Suddenly things really took off. I won the 72-hole Scratch Cup from a good field at Headfort, also the Waterford Scratch Cup and led in Kilkenny after an opening 69 before finishing fifth and now I’m off plus-two. As I’m also a member of Tramore, I was eligible for Munster and was a reserve for the recent Interpro Championships.

“I’m not surprised to have gone so far this week,” he continued. “It has been coming in bits and pieces and the swing changes I have been working with Shane O’Grady, the pro up at Black Bush in Co Meath, have really been paying off.

“I have given the game a lot of time and commitment and this week has been a huge boost for the morale. I am a full-time golfer and my aim is to become a lot more consistent. My aim is also to make the Munster team and maybe get on the Irish panel.”

After beating Keith Egan at the 16th in the morning, Griffin also enjoyed a 3 and 2 success over Leinster Interpro Conor O’Rourke who had earlier ended the hopes of 63 year-old Arthur Pierse in emphatic manner.

He now meets Stuart Bleakley, who inflicted a totally unexpected 8 and 6 hammering on 2009 champion Robert Cannon, who had little to be ashamed of given the Ulsterman shot five birdies and an eagle in a superb performance. Bleakley is a son of Geoff, the former pro at Balmoral.

Darragh Coghlan was another comfortable winner as he closed out his clash with Andrew Magee of Powerscourt at the 14th. Magee had eliminated Alan Lowry, the 21 year-old brother of European Tour pro Shane, on the 18th in the fifth round.

The one-sided trend was maintained when Richard Knightly got home at the 16th against Ian O’Rourke, the Cork golfer now playing out of Royal Dublin.

Coghlan, a physics graduate at Trinity, and Knightly, a pharmaceutical chemist, have been best friends since the age of 12; they are rooming together this week and have been egging each other on to reach the final.

South of Ireland, Lahinch, fifth round

C O’Rourke (Naas) bt A Pierse (Tipperary) 5 and 4; E Griffin (Waterford) bt K Egan (Carton House) 3 and 2; S Bleakley (Shandon Park) bt S Walsh (Portmarnock) 4 and 3; R Cannon (Balbriggan) bt B Daly (Edmondstown) 3 and 2; A Magee (Powerscourt) bt A Lowry (Esker Hills) 1 hole; D Coghlan (Portmarnock) bt A Gleeson (Castle) 4 and 2; I O’Rourke (Royal Dublin) bt E Stack (Ballybunion) 1 hole; R Knightly (Royal Dublin) bt M O’Kelly (Limerick) 5 and 4.

Quarter-finals: Griffin bt O’Rourke 3 and 2; Bleakley bt Cannon 8 and 6; Coghlan bt Magee 5 and 4; Knightly bt O’Rourke 3 and 2.

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