Concra Wood may hold the key for Challenge Tour hopefuls

Bernie McGuire
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As the Monaghan Irish Challenge comes to town, so too does the opportunity for Ireland’s pretenders to stake their Main Tour claims.

Having only opened its gates 10 years ago in Castleblayney, the Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior designed Concra Woodis already no stranger to top professionals fighting it out with three PGA Europro events under its belt, 2012, 2013 & 2014. Still, this week’s Monaghan Irish Challenge will be by far the course’s largest undertaking as the European Challenge Tour nears its season-ending grand final after a long Road to Ras Al Khaimah.

120 players are expected to tee-up for a prize fund of €180,000 with a further carrot for the top Irish player in the tournament winning the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy.

Furthermore, Concra Woods’ pristine fairways will be broadcast to 168 million homes around the world across 48 different broadcasters including Sky Sports. Unsurprisingly, there will be a strong Irish contingent hoping to make home advantage count this week with Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey top of that list.

The €16,875 fifth place cheque that Hoey picked up at the Kazakhstan Open has propelled him to within five places of the coveted top-15 on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah standings who will advance to the Main Tour next season.

With the Irish Challenge the third last regular tournament before the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final, with two events set for China in between, Hoey knows that he’ll need a similarly strong finish on familiar soil to boost his chances of automatic qualification to the Promised Land.

It’s been a largely disappointing season for Ireland’s hopefuls this term in truth, but there’s still much to play for as the Grand Final draws ever closer. For Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee, Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin and Dubliner Gavin Moynihan the trio find themselves in 59thand 68thand 71ston the Road to Ras Al Khaimah standings knowing that one big week at this stage of the season could change everything.

Only the top-45 ranked players will be eligible for the season finale which will offer a truly life-changing reward of Main Tour status for those finishing inside the top-15 in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings at the conclusion of the tournament. But even for the likes of McGee, Moynihan and Sharvin, just finishing inside the top-45 alone will ensure some starts and increase the likelihood of invites as they continue on their golfing path next season. Concra Wood may well hold the key to those aspirations.

Yet whatever happens, this event will provide a huge boost, not just to Concra Wood, but to an up and coming golfing region that maybe hasn’t been showcased in its perfect light just yet. If Castleblayney wasn’t on your golfing map already, it will be after this.

The Irish Challenge gets underway tomorrow and runs from October 4-7 at Concra Wood Golf Club. You won’t want to miss it.

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