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Simon Thornton wins as four local players secure Irish Open places with fine qualifying displays

By Paul Kelly

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) edged out Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC) on the first play-off hole to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort.

In doing so the 41-year-old claimed the €6000 first prize and earned a place in this week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin where he will be joined by O'Briain, third-placed Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel) and Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC),

Thornton and O'Briain finished the 36-hole event locked together on five under par, while Moriarty ended the tournament on four under.

The scorching weather that had marked out the practice day and the opening round on Saturday was replaced on Sunday by cloudy skies and a stronger breeze that tested the players.

“It was a battle but I'm used to that from practicing at Newcastle,” said Thornton.

“Overall, I played two good rounds. I played lovely, only one sloppy shot which cost me a bogey on the last but I committed to everything. I'm delighted obviously.”

The fourth place at Ballyliffin went to Cian McNamara who hung on to beat Europro Tour regular, Kevin Phelan on the second play-off hole after both finished the event on two under par.

“I haven't been in that situation for a long time so today I just said that I need to stick to my game plan and not look at what is going on around me,” said McNamara.

“I stuck to my plan and I holed a crucial putt on the 17th in normal play. In the play-off I hit the same clubs off the tees. I was unfortunate to three-putt the opening play-off hole and then I got lucky on the second play-off hole when Kevin just tugged his second shot into a bad lie.

“It is a huge boost, it's not something I thought I would ever get playing in again because I really haven't had a lot of time to put into my game but now I have qualified for another Irish Open with the wife caddying, it's been a great couple of days.”

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