It’s three Connacht vs one Leinster in the semi-finals of the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Championship after a thrilling day of matchplay at Co Sligo Golf Club.
Seven of the twelve matches on Monday went the distance including two of the afternoon quarter-finals.
Allan Hill pulled off another scalp with a 4&2 win over defending champion Hugh Foley to advance to the semi-final where he will face close friend Liam Nolan. Nolan came through a nail-biting contest with Malone’s Matthew McClean on the 18th.
It will be Thomas Higgins vs Alan Fahy in the second-semi final. Roscommon’s Higgins was a comfortable 5&3 winner over Ballybofey’s Ryan Griffin while Fahy of Bray edged Carton House’s Keith Egan 1UP in a match that could have gone either way.
Having dispatched of 2019 champion Caolan Rafferty 5&4 in the morning last-16 tie, Roscommon’s Hill was equally impressive in downing defending champion Foley to beat the last two winners of the West of Ireland.
The Maynooth University student birdied the 54th hole in the strokeplay qualifier to squeeze into the knockout phase in 16th place and he has taken full advantage despite his low expectations.
“Qualifying last in sixteenth I wasn’t expecting too much, playing against Raff he was playing some really nice golf,” he said. “I got off to a really great start this morning and just continued that in the afternoon.”
Hill has undoubtedly been placed on the tougher side of the draw and will come up against his third Irish international in as many matches on Tuesday morning as he battles close friend Nolan. The pair have been golfing together since they were children but there will be no room for sentiment.
Galway’s Nolan has had terrific support all week and he is looking to go one better than his runner-up finish last season.
The NUIG student has also taken down two big names in Peter O’Keeffe and McClean with both matches playing out to a dramatic conclusion on the 18th.
“They were two matches you probably expect to get in a final but with the last-16 that’s the way it goes. I just happened to edge them but they were 50/50 games.
“I had a good feeling over the putt on the last to beat Peter and against Matt I played good golf all the way around.
“It would be incredible to win. The West is the one isn’t it?”
Former Irish Boys International Thomas Higgins qualified in second place on one-over alongside tomorrow’s opponent Alan Fahy. The Roscommon native had a contrasting two matches having come through a playoff against Scotland’s Andrew Benson.
Higgins birdied 17 to level affairs and a par on 18 brought the last-16 match to extra time. His path through the quarter-final was much more straightforward as he cruised past Ryan Griffin.
Higgins’ win made it a full compliment of Connacht representatives in tomorrow’s semi-final but he isn’t getting carried away.
“Not really, you have to just keep going said Higgins when asked about a change in mentality in the two matches.
Higgins is just one week after his leaving certificate oral examinations and is set for a scholarship to Clemson University in South Carolina and he will be hoping it’s as West of Ireland champion.
Alan Fahy will look to upset the Connacht party tomorrow and take the 99th West of Ireland back to the East for another year.
“Yeah I’ll be wearing my Leinster gear tomorrow,” he joked. “It will be a great day, I didn’t realise it was all Connacht players. Hopefully take it home for Leinster tomorrow!”
The Bray native came through a very tight match to see off Egan in a game that was played in a great spirit.
Both players were level after 14 and the match looked destined for extra holes after the pair produced fabulous up and downs from the left greenside bunker on 16 to keep the match level pegging.
Fahy and Egan both hit great drives down the difficult 17th and Fahy was in the driving seat after drilling a 5-iron to ten-feet.
The Maynooth University graduate missed the birdie attempt but to his surprise Egan three-putted from the back edge and a par on 18 was enough to squeeze through.
Fahy was visibly tired after playing 36-holes but was delighted to advance.
“It was such a grind,” said the 2021 South of Ireland finalist. “I could feel myself getting tired coming in.
“I was kicking myself on 16 I aimed too far left with the wind off the right and it was an awkward bunker shot but I was happy enough with it and then to roll it in was huge because there was pressure as Keith hit a great shot too. It was a pressure putt.
“If I missed it I don’t know where the match would have went. I played 17 and 18 well anyway.
“I was up the back of 17 earlier and there was such a slope at the flag. I expected Keith to two-putt he’s a good putter so I was surprised he missed.”
The Semi-Finals tee off at 8.00 and 8.15, before the afternoon’s Final which is set to begin at 1.15.
Connolly AUDI West of Ireland Championship Last-16
Caolan Rafferty lost to Allan Hill 5&4
Hugh Foley beat Marc Boucher 1hole
Liam Nolan beat Peter O’Keeffe 1hole
Matthew McClean beat Eoin Sullivan 1hole
Thomas Higgins beat Andrew Benson 19 holes
Andrew Mulholland lost to Ryan Griffin 2&1
Alan Fahy beat James Hewitt 3&1
Eddie McCormack lost to Keith Egan 1hole
Connolly AUDI West of Ireland Championship Quarter-Finals
Allan Hill beat Hugh Foley 4&2
Liam Nolan beat Matthew McClean 1hole
Thomas Higgins beat Ryan Griffin 5&3
Alan Fahy beat Keith Egan 1hole