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Eagle helps Ireland starlet Gavin Moynihan point the way

By Brian Keogh

Familiarity might breed contempt for some, but for Dublin's Gavin Moynihan a return to a favourite stomping ground led to a crucial injection of confidence after a tough start to the year.

Having won the Irish Amateur Open title at Royal Dublin in 2012 and lost in a play-off in 2013, the 20-year-old was happy to return to Bull Island after a year's absence and open with a three-under 69 for a nine-way share of the first-round lead.

One of Ireland's main hopes for a Walker Cup place following his successful debut, albeit on a losing team, in 2013, Moynihan ended the day tied with compatriots Jack Hume, Colin Fairweather, Colm Campbell and Thomas Mulligan, Welshmen Evan Griffiths and Richard James, South African Luke Trocado and Scot Alexander Culverwell, one clear of the field.

There's still a long way to go before he can challenge for another Royal Dublin victory but, having endured a torrid start to 2015 since he returned from the University of Alabama at Christmas citing homesickness, it was a welcome respite that included a flash of brilliance.

After erasing birdies at the second and third with bogeys at the ninth and 10th, Moynihan hit a glorious high cut with a three-wood from 268 yards to just four feet to set up an eagle three at the 562-yard 14th.

"It's definitely the best shot of the year so far," said the flame-haired international, who then birdied the 16th and parred his way home for his 69.

"It's the best I've played in a while," he added, clearly relieved to break par again having struggled on a recent trip to Argentina and missed the cut by three shots in the Lytham Trophy.

Ireland's Kevin Phelan was just three shots off the leading group after round one of the AfraAsia Bank Mauritius Open being played at The Heritage GC in Domaine de Bel Ombre.

Phelan's 68 featured seven birdies, two bogeys and one double-bogey, leaving him in joint 14th place.

The Waterford native is the only Irish player in the field for this tri-sanctioned event combining players from the European Tour, Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour.

Jeunghun Wang of Korea, Carlos Pigem (Spain) and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen were joint top of the leaderboard on 65 (six-under par).

South African Oliver Bekker and Australian Terry Pilkadaris were tied for fourth on five-under, with seven players tied a shot further back.

Simon Thornton was the leading Irishman in the Challenge Tour's Turkish Airlines Challenge at Gloria GC, in Antalya, Turkey.

Thornton's 71 left him five behind overnight leader Eduard Dubois of France whose 66 gave him a one-shot margin.

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