Dermot McElroy could ensure he will be playing on the Challenge Tour next season after moving into contention heading into the final round of the Motocaddy NI Masters at Clandeboye.
The Ballymena man is currently third in the EuroPro Tour’s Order of Merit, needing to finish in the top-five to secure promotion, and a big finish in his home event would put him beyond the reach of the chasing pack, with £12,500 on offer for the winner.
And he has positioned himself well to do just that after an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys in a second consecutive two-under 69 at the Dufferin Course to move up into a share of third place.
That has him four shots back of leader Sam Broadhurst, the Englishman with an outstanding seven-under 64 on day two that saw him card an eagle and five birdies on his back nine alone to set the pace at seven-under-par.
That means he has a two-shot lead going into the final day, with England’s Paul Maddy recording a 65 to move up to five-under-par, one ahead of McElroy, England’s Joshua McMahon, Scotland’s Eric McIntosh and Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, who had five birdies and three bogeys in a 69 of his own.
Defending champion Simon Thornton is still in the mix as he carded five birdies and three bogeys in a two-under 69 to sit three-under-par, four back of Broadhurst, where he is joined by The K Club’s Conor O’Rourke, who had a 72 on day two.
Overnight leader John-Ross Galbraith couldn’t maintain his first round momentum, the Whitehead man still making the cut but following his five-under first round 66 with a five-over 76 in his second round to drop down to level-par.
Both West Cliffs’ Brendan McCarroll and Galway’s Ronan Mullarney signed for one-over 72s to make it into the final round at one-over-par, while Brandshaws Brae’s Colin Fairweather and The K Club’s Liam Grehan are also in at two-over-par.
There was agony for Clandeboye amateur Matthew Murphy, who started strongly in his first round with a two-under 69 but would miss the three-over cut line by one shot after a six-over 77 in his second round.
The Hermitage’s Rowan Lester and Wexford’s Rhys Clarke were also unfortunate to miss out on four-over after rounds of 73 and 74 respectively, with a bogey at the 18th proving particularly costly for Lester.
Dundalk’s Daniel Mulligan and Rosslare’s Paul Murphy both finished at five-over with second rounds of 72 and 76 respectively, with Daniel Brennan missing out at seven-over after a 74.
Brendan Lawlor, Clandeboye amateur Euan Knox, PGA Catalunya’s Luke Donnelly and Limerick’s Tim Rice all ended their weeks at eight-over, with another Clandeboye amateur Finlay Eager at nine-over.
Galgorm’s Michael Dallat and Co Sligo amateur Ruairi O’Connor would close at 11-over, with Chris Carroll, Owen Crooks and Cork’s John Hickey all 12-over, with Clandeboye’s Aaron Lennie 20-over and Youghal’s Conor Coyne 21-over.