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Ulster golfing trio beat fog to stay in the North of Ireland Championship hunt

By Peter Hutcheon

Play will resume this morning in the second qualifying round of the North of Ireland Championship after being abandoned because of the heavy sea mist which swept over Portrush in mid-afternoon yesterday.

From gloriously sunny conditions at 3pm, within half an hour it was impossible to see much more than a hundred yards ahead and match officials had no choice but to call the players back to the clubhouse.

Conditions deteriorated so badly that at the neighbouring Castlerock beach, coastguards ordered an evacuation of the water much to the dismay of holiday-makers intent on enjoying the heatwave.

The clear bright conditions are due to return again today, so there should be no problem in making up the lost time to finish Friday's final on schedule, although there's not much breathing space left.

Dermot McElroy was one of the lucky men to complete both his rounds and when play was suspended at Royal Portrush he was lying in a tie for second place after adding a two under round of 70 on the Dunluce Links to his opening effort of 67 on the Valley.

That left him just a couple of shots behind Headfort's Brian Casey who has completed rounds of 67 and 68 to head the race as leading qualifier.

McElroy is currently in a three-way tie with two other Ulstermen behind Casey – Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass and Castlerock's Aaron Kearney.

Kearney, the overnight leader, added a level par 72 on the Dunluce Links after opening with a 65 around the Valley. Sharvin was one under yesterday on the Dunluce to go with his six-under opening round of 66 on the Valley.

Richard Bridges of Stackstown is alone in fifth place after rounds of 67 and 72, while Lurgan's David Sutton is a further shot back on 140 after adding a 73 to his opening 67.

Belvoir Park's Harry Diamond made amends for his opening 76 and is back in with a shout of making the last 64 going through to the matchplay stages with a second round two under par 70 on the Valley Links yesterday morning.

It's going to be an interesting morning for him as he sees the rest of the scores from the delayed second round coming in.

Play was due to resume today, conditions permitting.

* IRELAND are in a strong position to claim a top-flight spot at the European Amateur Team Championships at Silkeborg in Denmark after a solid opening-day performance.

Bidding to regain the title they last held in 2008, Ireland ended the day tied in third place with Scotland knowing that another reasonable display today will take them into the last eight for the matchplay phase.

With five of their six cards counting, they finished on 11-over-par 371, 10 shots behind leaders France and three adrift of second placed Germany.

Headfort's Rory McNamara was Ireland's stand-out performer with his two-under 70.

He produced five birdies on the back nine, but bogeyed the 16th and 17th.

Dubliner Paul Dunne, who set a new course record at Princes in Kent during last month's Amateur Championship, was one-under on the final tee, but double-bogeyed the last.

Mourne's Reeve Whitson and youngster Jack Hume both carded 75s.

Opener Kevin Phelan, who survived the cut at last month's US Open, was left frustrated with his 78 – he triple-bogeyed the fourth and never recovered.

Gavin Moynihan carded a disappointing 79.

Ireland also have a good chance of making the last eight in the European Boys Team Championship over the Murcar Links in Scotland thanks largely to level-par 72s by Gareth Lappin and Paul McBride. Robin Dawson was steady for a 73 and Sean Flanagan for 74, while James Sugrue's 77 also counted in Ireland's total of 368, with Alec Myles recording a non-counting tally of 79.

Ireland finished day one in sixth place, 13 strokes adrift of leaders Italy.

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