Neil O’Briain and Colm Moriarty enjoyed the best of day one as the professionals descended on Rosapenna in a bid to qualify for next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by the Rory Foundation. Neil O’Briain / Image from Getty Images The experienced pair both fired five-under-par 67s around the stunning Sandy Hills course at the Donegal track to put themselves in pole position for one of four places on offer for the Rolex Series event. The forty thousand euro qualifier has been the talk of the Regional circuit and beyond since its announcement and the golf certainly didn’t disappoint on day one with a stack of experienced campaigners in the running ahead of what’s sure to be an intense finale tomorrow. Old Conna’s O’Briain, last year’s Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year, has been in blistering form of late and he showed no signs of slowing down as he fired five birdies and an eagle en route to setting the bar after round one. “I played really nicely. I’m really happy with that,” said O’Briain, winner of the recent Slieve Russell Masters Pro-Am.“You just have to accept that you are going to miss putts and get the odd bad bounce even if you play a good shot. I made a few bogeys today that didn’t come from a bad shot, I just got a bad bounce and couldn’t get it up and down. You have to place your ball off the tee and take the trouble out of the equation as best that you can without leaving yourself a long way into the greens.” Athlone’s Moriarty fired seven birdies of his own to keep the Dubliner in his sights but with the quality of player lurking in behind, both will be unwilling to take the foot off the pedal tomorrow. “The course is tricky, there is no doubt about it,” said Moriarty who was delighted with his start.“It’s breezy and it’s hard to get the ball close to the hole. You have to get it on the fairway first of all but then you have to control your second shots into the greens because they are pretty firm with the spell of weather we’ve been having.” For the challengers, the morning starters definitely had the best of the going which was reflected in the scoring with eight of the top 10 teeing off before 9am. Simon Thornton sits in solo third spot after returning five birdies and an eagle for a four-under-par 68 with Waterville’s David Higgins and Cork’s Cian McNamara just one shot further back after sound 69s to start their respective bids. Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan finds himself in a four-way tie for 6th at two-under-par alongside Mark Staunton, Rory McNamara and England’s Robert Giles. In all, eleven players broke par around the tight, testing track but with a host of internationals in the mix heading into the final round, it truly is all to play for, and considering the weather, only low scoring will do to earn a potentially life changing place in the field for this year’s Irish Open at Ballyliffin. Click HERE for the leadboard as it stands to to follow the progress tomorrow and may the best men win.
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