general view of the sixth tee at Ballyliffin Golf Club which stages the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week
LIMERICK golfer Cian McNamara will tee it up alongside Europe’s top professionals when he competes in the €6 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for a fourth time at Ballyliffin Golf Club beginning this Thursday.
Thirty two-year-old McNamara from Ballyclough will begin his Irish Open glory bid from the 10th tee at 9.20am this Thursday morning in the company of fellow Irish professional Simon Thornton and Scotland’s Neil Bradley.
McNamara, who was attached to Limerick Golf Club, has a later tee time in Friday’s second round, setting out from the first tee at 2.20pm.
The club professional at Monkstown Golf Club in Cork claimed a spot in the Irish Open by placing fourth in the qualifier at Rosapenna Golf Hotel on Sunday evening when his wife Siobhan was on his bag.
McNamara played a practice round with one of the pre-tournament favourites Rafael Cabrera-Bello, from Spain, and South Africa George Coetzee on Tuesday.
Former ‘South’ of Ireland winner at Lahinch, McNamara told Leader Sport: “The Irish Open is a big deal this year.
"I just know from being here in Ballyliffin for the past few days, this is going to be a particularly hectic Irish Open. You know from the surrounds and from the practice days with the number of people around.
"I am very comfortable with it. I will have a lot of support. The members at Monkstown Golf Club have been very good to me and also the members at Limerick Golf Club. They are coming in big numbers.
“I am looking forward to getting going and giving myself the best chance.”
Another Limerickman, Peter Brazil is caddying for McNamara this week in Ballyliffin.
McNamara said: "This week I have a good friend of mine Peter Brazil caddying for me. He has come up from Limerick and will take the bag for the week.
“He's a member at Limerick Golf Club and owns Limerick Travel. It is appreciated what he is doing as he has big work commitments at the moment, taking four or five days out to caddy for me.”
McNamara opted earlier this week not to take part in the final stage of qualifying for the upcoming British Open in order to concentrate all his efforts on preparing for his Irish Open test at Ballyliffin.
McNamara narrowly missed out on making the half-way cut on each of his three Irish Open appearances at Carton House, Fota Island and County Down. He says his ambitions for this week at Ballyliffin is to play ‘good golf’ and see where it takes him.
"The course is particularly challenging this week. This is for me the toughest test that I have played as regards a links set-up. Even though the weather conditions are perfect, there is a wind, but the temperature is 20 degrees plus, the greens are receptive, it is still a tough challenge.
"That could suit me here this week, it could mean scoring might not get as low as normal which I feel might play to my benefit.
"This year my (Irish Open) goal is to play good golf. If I play good golf, I will make the cut. I am not going to think about making the cut, I'm just purely concentrating on playing good golf and if I do that I can compete.
"We are going to see what happens from there. If I can play good golf I am very confident I will have a nice result this week. That is what I need to be spending my time thinking about rather than setting my result at a goal.
"I got very fortunate in that I got to play with Rafael Cabrera-Bello and George Coetzee on Tuesday in a practice round. That was a nice experience and one that offered me more confidence in that I was able to step up beside them and play and certainly hold my own.
“I think that was the most beneficial part of this week so far was getting the opportunity to play with players of that level because it just reassures you in your mind that although I have done no work towards my game and haven't put in the time like those players, I am able to compete and hold my own.”
The Limerick Leader Sport Coverage of Cian at the Irish Open is brought to you by Limerick Travel