Phelan, 27, eagled the par-5 15th and birdied the last to complete the low round of the day, climbing 38 places on the leaderboard, and at minus three is now seven shots off the lead, alone in 12th. Sweden’s Niklas Lemke holds a one-shot advantage on 10 under going into the final round.
“I’m happy to be playing good golf again,” said Phelan, who has endured a barren spell. “I’ve had a couple of bad years.”
After a so-so start to the tournament with two rounds of 73 to make the cut on the number, Phelan finally caught fire but only after a struggle. A chip-in birdie at the second appeared a good omen, however Phelan had to grind it out after a three-putt bogey on number five.
He saved par from 10 feet at the next, then proceeded to get up and down from 90 yards on the seventh having been bunkered off the tee.
“Those par saves kept me in decent shape,” Phelan reflected. “I was plodding along. I didn’t play that well on the front nine.”
Once that storm had passed, he started to make headway, beginning with a three foot birdie at the eighth to turn in one under.
On the back nine, Phelan excelled. He rolled in a 12 footer at the 12th and eagled 15 from 40 feet having reached the green with a 3-iron. Another sweetly struck iron shot down the last set up a closing birdie from four feet.
Phelan apart, it was a disappointing day for the home brigade. Paul McBride began the round inside the top 10 and got within four of the lead at one point but three successive bogeys on the closing stretch left him signing for a 74 that dropped him back to minus two.
Ruaidhri McGee (75) and Conor O’Rourke (76) failed to make progress having put themselves in promising positions at the halfway stage. McGee made eagle at 15 but clocked up six bogeys between the 7th and the 16th. O’Rourke’s only birdie of the round came at 15 but he had already dropped four shots by that stage. He begins from two over on Sunday.
Alongside McGee on level par is Gavin Moynihan, who carded a 73. Neil O’Briain (+1) and Niall Kearney (+2) both produced level par rounds of 72, which helped them improve their position overall.