Gareth Maybin finds form at right time to boost Irish Open prospects

Gareth Maybin hits his third shot onto the 9th green at Fota Island
Gareth Maybin hits his third shot onto the 9th green at Fota Island

Just when he really needed it, Gareth Maybin produced his lowest round of the season, a six under par 65, to force his way into the mix at the Irish Open on Friday.

The Ballyclare golfer is tied for eighth on six under par courtesy of a brilliant second nine that saw him come home in five under 31.

“It started off pretty slow. I made a birdie at the second and then parred all the way through until I made the turn,” said the 33-year-old.

“I birdied my 10th hole and then kind of caught fire on the back nine and saw the ball going into the hole. You see that happening and you start believing.

“I haven’t been playing great all year but to come in and show that I am still capable of shooting a good number is encouraging.”

Currently ranked 152 in the Race to Dubai, a strong finish from Gareth this week could go a long way to securing his playing rights for next season but he is refusing to look too far ahead.

“I will just go out and do what I have done today, keep plodding along, try and hit fairways and greens and see where we end up at the end of it,” he added.

“When you put expectations on yourself it brings pressure and all that other stuff and it doesn’t equate to playing well.”

Maybin joined seven other ‘home’ contenders trying to win at Fota Island, including Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Michael Hoey, Darren Clarke, Peter Lawrie and amateur Gary Hurley.

Mikko Ilonen maintained his two-stroke lead on the second day but the Finn has Graeme McDowell breathing down his neck.

McDowell had set the early pace with six birdies to climb to eight under par on another glorious day in Cork, but he was overhauled later in the day by Ilonen, who mixed five birdies with two bogeys in his round of 68.

England’s Robert Rock and Frenchman Romain Wattel made it a three-way tie for second place alongside McDowell after signing for respective rounds of 66 and 65.

Unfortunately for the huge crowds at Fota Island Resort, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy both missed the halfway cut on one over par; but Padraig Harrington is firmly in contention to win his national Open for a second time after carding a round of 67 for a six under par aggregate total.

Both Darren Clarke (-2) and Michael Hoey (-3) have some ground to make up if they want to mount a serious challenge but Hoey still believes a low round is possible.

“If I have a good weekend I could still finish right up there,” said Michael who got off to a birdie, birdie start before a run of three bogeys halted his progress.

“My timing has not been on, so for me to make the cut comfortably when I was not on my game is a good thing.”