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Dunne heads Irish challenge as the big guns misfire

By Liam Kelly

The caravan keeps rolling, leaving the wounded hearts of some big names to bleed quietly at the end of a tumultuous second day at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.

Rory McIlroy hid his personal anguish at missing the cut for the second time in three years.

Graeme McDowell opted to avoid discussing the hurt at a similar fate on his home turf.

The shock of a double-bogey six on the last hole to eliminate him from the championship was too raw for G-Mac to analyse within minutes of finishing his round. Better news for the home fans were the gritty performances of Paul Dunne, Padraig Harrington, Gavin Moynihan and Shane Lowry.

All of them achieved their first goal: survive what became, at four-under par, the lowest cut mark in Irish Open history.

Dunne's 69 for eight-under par leaves him five adrift of the leaders.

Harrington got to seven-under, and but for an agonising missed birdie putt from inside four feet on the last, he too would have been on the eight-under mark.

Second-year pro Gavin Moynihan and former Irish Open champion Shane Lowry both shot 71, placing the Island GC member on six-under and Lowry at five-under par.

Meanwhile, a legion of foreigners flourished as if they were raised on links turf, cramming their way to the upper regions of a closely-packed leaderboard which was headed by Frenchman Benjamin Hebert and laid-back New Jersey native Daniel Im, both on 13-under par.

Similar scoring, 64-67, over the two days meant that Hebert and Im tee off together today at 1.30pm.

They will be hunted all the way, as a one-shot lead is nothing on a course where the weather is expected to be reasonable today, compared with cold, wintry and blustery conditions in the morning yesterday.

Dunne was among those who had the worst of the weather, and though he found his patience tested at times, he carded another round in the 60s.

A 10th-tee starter, anyone looking at Dunne clearly angry at himself after a missed par putt on the 16th, his seventh hole, and again on the 17th tee where he banged his club handle on the turf, would say he was in self-destruct mode.

But credit to this guy, he continues to impress.

He got a solid par out of the 17th, was back on track with a couple of early birdies in his back nine, and starts today as the leading Irishman.

"I felt I hit it better than yesterday," he said. "At the start, it was much tougher than yesterday.

"I had 145 (yards) at the 12th and hit a full seven-iron and came up 20 yards short. It was a cold, strong wind for the first six holes. I controlled my ball a lot better, especially off the tee.

"It was nice in a round which was getting a bit frustrating to turn it around and let the birdies come.

"It has been a great week. There are six of us in the house at the minute, and my brother is coming in tomorrow.

"I had other friends and family coming up and members of Greystones.

"It's a great week for me," said Dunne.

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