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Connolly Motors West of Ireland Qualifier ends in dramatic, pitch-black playoff – Irish Golfer Magazine

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In total, 97 hopefuls took to the links at Rosses Point, aiming to earn a Friday tee-time in the first round of the 2024 Connolly Motors West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club, and in typical West of Ireland fashion, the elements more than played their part.

Early morning rain, occasional hail showers and a stiff breeze that varied in strength but was ever present ensured that the links would be the overall winner and each and every one of the 19 eventual qualifiers would be battle hardened by the time Friday rolls around.

Edmondstown’s Loran O’Connor who found himself .1 shy of an automatic place in the tournament proper was one of the first on course and an eagle and three birdies saw him reach the 13th at -3 for the day. But the tough closing stretch was made even tougher when the heavens opened and the wind picked up, but even four bogeys in the final six holes weren’t enough to derail him and he posted the early marker at +1, confident that he’d done enough to book that Friday tee time.

“I missed the cut off for the main event by 0.1,” O’Connor said afterwards. “So I came down here really, really wanting to get in and back playing in it. But I’ve never ever played well around this golf course. I think that’s my best score by probably about seven shots.”

The low round of the day belonged to Fermoy’s Eoghan McCarthy who traded four birdies with three bogeys and was the only man to break par on the day, firing a one-under 70 to take leading qualifier honours. McCarthy is a school principal who’s been working with David Ruddy on his long game and with Gordon Smyth at the Raflewski Academy in the Slieve Russell on his short game, and he’ll join Smyth’s son Charlie in Friday’s main draw as the Ireland Boys’ team member is set to make his West of Ireland Championship debut.

Among those joining O’Connor and McCarthy was Rosses Point native David Brady who recovered from a bogey at the first to reach two-under through 12. Again, the final six holes would get the better of him, but at +2, he’ll join the already strong local contingent in Friday’s draw.

“I kind of took advantage of the wind,” said Brady, who now lives in Maynooth and represents Straffan Golf Club. “It was not the ideal finish, but I think a lot of people will drop shots coming home. Maybe not quite as many as I did, but happy to finally finish and getting into Friday’s field is all that matters.”

As the day progressed, it was evident that +5 would be the playoff number and 10 would compete for the final two slots. 10 became nine fast as Castleknock’s James Mitten had already departed, and as darkness descended, the players opted to play on even though they were relying solely on feel by the time the four remaining had reached the third playoff hole.

Belvoir Park’s Conal Keenan was the first to book his place with a birdie on three, and, now relying on phone torchlight to see the ball on the tee and on machinery lighting to see the green, Edmondstown man Patrick Curran somehow hit his approach to 15 feet on the par-3 4th and two putts was enough to become the last man to secure a Friday tee time.

“That was a once in a lifetime experience,” said a relieved Keenan afterwards, “you couldn’t see a thing from the third hole onwards. For the par-3, I just picked the same club I hit earlier on and I hit a good shot then so I just tried to get the same feeling.

“It’s my first time in the West,” he added, “I played the North last year for the first time, so this is my second Men’s Championship, so hoping for good things to come…”

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