The 18-year-old Maynooth University talent fired six birdies in a one-under par 71 to share fourth place on one-over par with Grange’s Robbie Pierse and Hilton Templepatrick’s Reece Black as Dun Laoghaire’s Colin Woodroofe holed a series of unlikely par putts for a 72 to lead on five-under par.
Woodroofe, 22, has a slim, two-stroke lead over Carton House’s Paul O’Hanlon, who is trying to become the first back-to-back winner of the “East” for 24 years.
But the tall Wicklow man will be hard to beat after he holed a string of crucial par putts including a six footer at the eighth, a 10 footer at the ninth, a 20-footer at the 12th and 10 footers at both the 14th and 15th to keep his nose in front.
“I hit it better on the front nine and turned in two under but my putter was really saving me on the back nine,” said Woodroofe, followed front nine birdies at the third and sixth with bogeys at the 10th and 16th.
“Once I got started today the nerves went away so hopefully I can do it tomorrow. I will just try to stick to my pre-shot routine and if I can keep my putting going, that will be key.”
He faces a tough task against 32-year old defending champion and former professional O’Hanlon, who is trying to become the first to successfully defend the title since Banbridge’s Raymie Burns in 1993.
A wire-to-wire winner 12 months ago, the former Irish Close champion only has eyes for silverware since he regained his amateur status last year after four years on the mini tours.
And he has a great chance after a superb, third round 69 left him alone in second place on three-under par.
Starting on the back nine, O’Hanlon bogeyed the 11th but birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th, then rolled in a 60 footer for eagle at the third when his attempted lay-up snuck through the gap and rolled down to the edge of the green.
After following a birdie at the sixth with a bogey at the seventh, he was upbeat about his chances of a repeat win and a place in the history books.
“Having won this before it’s not like I’m feeling, ‘Wow, this is my only chance.’ But I’d love to go back to back,” O’Hanlon said.
“That would be cool. I play golf now just to have good experiences and to do something that hasn’t been done for while would be special.”
Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan will make up the final three-ball, five off the lead on level par after a 70 that promised to be much better before he bogeyed the 16th and 18th.
Italy’s Renato Paratore claimed his first European Tour title at the Nordea Masters after overnight leader Chris Wood bogeyed the final hole in Malmo.
Paratore carded a closing 70 at Barseback Golf and Country Club to finish 11 under par, the 20-year-old crucially saving par on the 18th after being fortunate to have a shot to the green following a wayward drive.
Playing in the group behind, England’s Wood also pulled his tee shot on the last into the trees and was forced to take a penalty drop from an unplayable lie, the resulting bogey dropping him into a tie for second with compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick, the holder.
Fitzpatrick was left to rue a double bogey on the third after carding seven birdies in a final round of 68, with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and South Africa’s George Coetzee sharing fourth place on nine under.
Coetzee had surged through the field with a closing 66 which featured two bogeys in the first three holes and nine birdies, while Barseback member and Open champion Henrik Stenson finished in a tie for 26th after a 69.
Paratore is the youngest winner on the European Tour since GolfSixes team-mate Matteo Manassero, who walked the final few holes with his fellow Italian after finishing his own round.