Niall Kearney and Eamonn Brady locked in lead of Irish PGA Championship at Dundalk

James Quinlivan (Mullingar GC) during the first round of the Irish PGA Championship at Dundalk Golf Club
James Quinlivan (Mullingar GC) during the first round of the Irish PGA Championship at Dundalk Golf Club

Defending champion Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin) and Eamonn Brady (Clontarf GC) are locked together at the top of leaderboard after the opening day of the Irish PGA Championship at Dundalk GC.

In perfect scoring conditions, Kearney and Brady carded rounds of seven under par 65 to lead James Quinlivan (Mullingar GC) by one and Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance) by two.

Brady won the pro-am on Wednesday with a bogey free round of 67 and he continued in that vein on Thursday, collecting seven birdies and finishing the day without a dropped shot.

“I have played well this year but have struggled a bit with my confidence recently,” said the 41-year-old who failed to get through the first round of European Tour Q-School last week.

“I feel like I have found it again lately, so hopefully I’ll keep it going. I played well in the pro-am and it was the same today, it was just a matter of how many putts I would hole.”

Kearney was playing his first strokeplay event for a number of weeks but eased back into the groove with the minimum of fuss.

The Royal Dublin man is still on something of a high following his exploits at the PGA Cup when he holed the winning putt for GB&I to complete an historic first victory on US soil.

“It felt quite good today, I thought I would be a bit more rusty,” said the 27-year-old.

“It has been quite a while since my last strokeplay event but I have been practicing hard and I’m happy with my game at the moment.

“A bit of matchplay can be a good thing, because it can free things up. I think I have carried some of that with me.”

Niall grabbed eight birdies in total, his only dropped shot coming at the par four 16th when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

He added; “I hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances. I just want to go out and enjoy it over the next couple of days, relax and see what happens.”

Quinlivan was one of the early starters and the long-time leader following his six under par 66.

“It’s not a long course but you have to keep it in play,” said James who has recently been appointed Head professional at Mullingar GC.

“I was speaking to my mum the other day; she’s not into golf but she said, ‘why don’t you go out and try and win this one’. It is kind of logged in my mind.

“It is a good start but I was there or there abouts last year as well for three rounds and then fell away over the final round but I feel a bit better about the game. I found something on the range yesterday

and feel like I have got something going.”

Round two continues today at 8am with the cut made at the end of play

Top 50 and ties will make it through to the weekend. Irish PGA Championship

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At Dundalk GC (Par 72)

Day one - leading scores

T1 E Brady (Clontarf GC); N Kearney (Royal Dublin GC) 65

3 J Quinlivan (Mullingar GC) 66

4 C Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Ltd) 67

T5 M O’Sullivan (Piltown Driving Range); M Staunton (Delgany GC); R Kilpatrick (Banbridge GC); S Thornton (Team Ireland) 70

T9 K McGivern (Mannan Castle GC); R Creamer (Arklow GC); J Dwyer (Ashbourne GC); G Dunlea (Monkstown GC) 71