Nolan and Fahy set to showdown in West of Ireland decider

Ronan MacNamara
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It’s Connacht vs Leinster in the final of the 99th Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland where Galway’s Liam Nolan and Bray’s Alan Fahy will battle it out this afternoon in Co. Sligo Golf Club.

Nolan was the first man to advance to the decider after he came through an all Connacht tie against close friend Allan Hill 2&1 before Fahy kept Roscommon’s Thomas Higgins at arms length to progress 3&2.

Fine margins proved critical in the Nolan vs Hill semi-final and the tie turned around the turn as Nolan played some controlled golf coming down the stretch.

Rosommon’s Hill held a 1UP advantage after seven holes as the rain pelted down but the Maynooth student missed short putts for halves on 8 and 9 to relinquish his lead and turn one down.

The match was level pegging after Nolan found trouble off the 10th tee but the NUIG student soon edged back into the driving seat after hitting his bunker shot to gimme range for the par on 11. Hill was unable to get up and down from the grass bunker left of the green.

Hill has held his fair share of footage on the Rosses Point greens this week and the flat stick kept him in it at times today. First, a 30-footer on the fifth kept him in touch with Nolan before a must make 10-footer for a birdie on the 12th made sure he didn’t fall two down.

Nolan’s iron play came out on top and it proved to be the difference as Hill fought a right miss, Nolan controlled his golf ball often finding the middle of the greens and two-putting to keep his nose in front.

Holes 11-15 were halved in pars before Nolan went dormie 2UP after 16. Hill pulled his tee shot left with the pin back left and could only pitch to 25-feet while Nolan found the heart of the green off the tee.

Nolan safely two-putted for his par from 40-feet but Hill was unable to pull off a heroic par.

Both players were safely aboard the difficult 17th green with Nolan applying as much pressure as possible as he stitched a 7-iron to 10-feet. Hill was faced with a must make 40-foot birdie putt to keep his dwindling hopes alive but it fell short and his chances of a first major came to an abrupt halt.

In the second semi-final Fahy kept Higgins at arms length throughout to book his spot in the decider. Fahy is well versed in 36-hole matchplay having reached the final of the 2021 South of Ireland before losing to TJ Ford.

The Maynooth University alum was very solid from tee to green and turned 2UP. He was a touch fortunate to do so after Higgins passed up a short birdie putt to halve the deficit before holing from 15-feet for a fabulous half after missing the 9th green.

Higgins managed to reduce the deficit to the minimum after 13 but found the left penalty area off the 14th tee.

It was a testing morning on the greens for Fahy but he finally got a putt to drop and it was the killer blow in the match. A textbook matchplay moment.

The Irish international sunk a 12-foot putt for birdie to pile the pressure on Higgins who was a couple of feet closer. The Leaving Cert student saw his reply slip by on the left side and he was unable to find an answer on the 16th to keep his hopes alive.

It’s Nolan vs Fahy in the final to decide the 2022 West of Ireland champion and both players will feel they are due a maiden major title after Nolan finished as joint runner-up here last year while Fahy will be looking for redemption after being well beaten in the South of Ireland decider in Lahinch

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