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Tiarnan McLarnon is taken to six extra holes in opener

By Paul Kelly

Irish champions Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) and Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) successfully negotiated the opening rounds of the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush on Wednesday.

McLarnon, the reigning Close Champion, was taken to six extra holes by Eugene Smith (Ardee) in round one before emerging victorious. The 24-year-old then beat Kealan Quigg (North West) to set up a meeting with Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) in the last 16 today.

Campbell meanwhile, the current Irish Amateur champion beat Philip Kelly (Co Armagh) 7&5 but found life more difficult against Keith Egan (Carton House) who took him to the 20th.

"I wasn't firing on all cylinders this afternoon. Did enough to get through, it was a gritty sort of game," said Campbell who was handed a bye into the matchplay stages after returning from international duty with Ireland at the weekend.

"It's nice coming this week and not having to qualify but it's nearly a disadvantage."

Campbell will face 2013 Ulster Boys Champion, Owen Crooks (Bushfoot), in the last 16 today.

"I made no mistakes in the morning [against Ronan Mullarney]. I had a slow start in the afternoon [against Christopher Morgan] until I eagled the seventh," said Crooks, an Irish Boys international.

"I was in rough at the eighth but halved the hole. Won nine in par, 10 and 11 with birdies and 13th in bogey. This is the furthest I have got in the competition."

Leading qualifier, Gary Collins (Rosslare), bowed out in the opening round of matchplay, beaten 2&1 by Eanna Griffin (Waterford).

Round three draw: William Russell v Paul Reavey, Dean Crawford v Dermot McElroy, Conor Purcell v Tiarnan McLarnon, Owen Crooks v Colm Campbell, Aaron Kearney v Jordon Hood, Declan Reidy v Marc Nolan, Sean Flanagan v Ben Best, Ross Dutton v Garth Boyd.

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