PAT MURRAY is planning the drive of his life today — an 80 mile victory roar from Lahinch to Killarney where he is one of four amateurs set to tee it up in the 3 Irish Open.
But in order to achieve his dream of clearing space in the boot of his car for the famous old trophy that bears the names of Irish golfing immortals such as Joe Carr and Graeme McDowell, he must overcome some serious baggage of his own.
Six-times he has reached the last four of his beloved “South” and six times he has walked away a beaten man.
It could be argued that the 39-year old Tipperary man has a mental block at this stage. And while he ended his long victory drought at last by claiming last year’s Irish Close title at Enniscrone, the ‘South’ is the championship closest to his heart and he’s not prepared to take no for an answer this year.
“I’ve lost six semi-finals but I’ve got a good record in finals,” quipped Murray in reference to his Close win at Enniscrone. “That’s my only final so far.
“I’m feeling good about the game this time. I’m playing well and if I can keep it going I’d be pretty confident.”
Playing some of the best golf seen this week, Murray avoided a potential banana skin when he beat West Waterford’s Mark Shanahan by two holes in the morning before ending the dreams of Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan with an impressive 6 and 4 quarter-final win.
His path to the final is barred by UCD golf scholarship student John Greene, a burly 24-year from Carlow who has cut a swathe through the field in a pair of shorts with his wild hair blowing madly in the west wind.
“You might as well pretend you’re in Florida,” said Greene with a grin. “I think I’m a blast from the past, like something from the 70s.”
Murray won’t be fooled by Greene’s laidback attitude. A plus one handicapper and the winner of this year’s Waterford Scratch Cup, the Carlow man has plenty of game, as he showed when he broke a couple of teenage hearts yesterday.
After a brisk breakfast he ended the hopes of Liam Harnett, the 16-year old Irish Boys international from Milltown, with a 2 and 1 win before storming back from two down with three to play to finish birdie-par-birdie and snatch a one hole victory over the talented Skerries starlet Sam Devey.
“I don’t know how I am still here,” said Greene, who got some help in his quarter-final win as Devey hit his second shot out of bounds at the last. “I can’t believe Sam’s not a boys international or even a boys interpro. He’s easily good enough but I just broke his heart today.”
The winner of the Murray-Greene clash will face the winner of the showdown between Kelan McDonagh, the 20-year old Irish international from Athlone, and Castletroy’s 27-year old Munster interprovincial Cian Daly.
McDonagh, four and three winner over Old Conna’s Mark Sheridan in the morning, then eliminated the joint title favourite and Irish Close champion Dara Lernihan by one hole.
“I played half-decent at the North and pretty solid in the interpros and just came here with a bit of confidence and took it one match at a time,” said McDonagh. “I’ll just try to keep winning.”
As for Daly, the Limerick man is happy to have made it this far, conceding: “I got to the fourth round two years ago so everything is a bonus.”
But he wasn’t called up by Munster for nothing and he will be more than a handful for McDonagh on a course he knows well.
Fifth round: K McDonagh (Athlone/NUIM) bt M Sheridan (Old Conna) 4/3; D Lernihan (Castle) bt R Whitson (Mourne) 3/2; B Casey (Headfort) bt J Monaghan (The Island) 19th; C Daly (Castletroy) bt P O’Hara (Kilkenny) 4/3; S Devey (Skerries) bt S McGlynn (South County) 2/1; J Greene (Carlow) bt L Harnett (Milltown) 2/1; T Neenan (Lahinch) bt R O’Donovan (Lucan) 1 hole; P Murray (Limerick) bt M Shanahan (West Waterford) 2 holes
Quarter-finals : McDonagh bt Lernihan 1 hole; Daly bt Casey 1 hole; Greene bt Devey 1 hole; Murray bt Neenan 6/4.
Semi-finals: (8.30) K McDonagh v C Daly; (8.40) J Greene v P Murray.
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