Graeme McDowell set about improving his poor Irish Open record as the second round got under way in more glorious sunshine on Friday.
McDowell made his tournament debut when Fota Island last hosted the event in 2002 and finished 27th, but that is one of just six halfway cuts the former US Open champion has made in 12 appearances.
The 34-year-old has never recorded a top-10 finish but carded an opening 68 on Thursday and moved within three shots of the lead with two birdies and one bogey in his first six holes today.
Starting from the 10th, McDowell began with three pars before holing from 20 feet for birdie on the par-three 11th, only to promptly give the shot back on the next after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
McDowell, who was joint second after the opening round of the US Open at Pinehurst last week before finishing 28th, bounced back straight away with a birdie on the 15th to move to four under par, three behind leader Mikko Ilonen.
Ilonen, who was among the later starters, had enjoyed a two-shot overnight lead but saw that reduced to one by Italian Marco Crespi, who had birdied the third, fourth and sixth.
England’s Robert Rock, who took the winner’s cheque of €500,000 in 2009 despite finishing second – amateur winner Shane Lowry could not accept the money - was a shot behind after a hat-trick of birdies from the second and a bogey on the seventh.
And defending champion Paul Casey joined playing partner McDowell on four under with birdies on the 11th and 16th, the former Ryder Cup player having also left birdie putts agonisingly on the edge of the hole on the 13th and 14th.
McDowell had bogeyed the 17th on Thursday after hitting his tee shot so poorly that it came up more than 50 yards short of the green, but negotiated it in par this time around and reached the turn in 34.
A birdie from close range on the second then took the Ryder Cup star to five under par, but Casey also made a birdie there after doing the same on the first to edge ahead in their personal battle.
There was still danger lurking on the course however, Germany’s Marcel Siem tumbling out of contention after running up a quadruple-bogey seven on the third after dumping two balls into the water surrounding the green.