Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC) and Colm Moriarty (Glasson GC) are in pole position to secure their places at next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open following the first round of qualifying at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort.
Donegal’s Brian McElhinney is the top local golfer on -1 and is in with a chance of making one of the four places, if he can hit a good round on Sunday.
O'Briain and Moriarty mastered tricky conditions on the fast and firey Sandy Hills Links to sign for a pair of 65s ahead of Sunday's final round.
Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) is a shot further back on four under, with David Higgins (Waterville) and Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC) on three under.
“The course is tricky, there is no doubt about it,” said Moriarty who was delighted with his start.
“It's breezy and it's hard to get the ball close to the hole. You have to get it on the fairway first of all but then you have to control your second shots into the greens because they are pretty firm with the spell of weather we've been having.”
The morning starters definitely had the best of the going on Saturday and that was reflected in the scoring with eight of the top 10 teeing off before 9am.
As the sun beat down it became more testing and in that context, amateur James Sugrue (Mallow) who carded a one-under 71 and Stuart Grehan (Team Ireland) who signed for a 70 (-2) produced some high-quality golf.
“I played really nicely. I'm really happy with that,” said O'Briain, winner of the recent Slieve Russell Masters Pro-Am.
“You just have to accept that you are going to miss putts and get the odd bad bounce even if you play a good shot. I made a few bogeys today that didn't come from a bad shot, I just got a bad bounce and couldn't get it up and down.
“You have to place your ball off the tee and take the trouble out of the equation as best that you can without leaving yourself a long way into the greens.”
The four leading players after the conclusion of play on Sunday will each earn a place in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin with the winner collecting a first prize of €6000.
In the event of a tie for first place there will be a play-off and if required, there will also be a play-off to decide on fourth place.
The leaders will get underway at approximately 1.30pm.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifier hosted by The Rory Foundation
Sat, 30 Jun - Sun, 1 Jul at Rosapenna Golf Hotel (Par 72)
T1 Neil O'Briain -5 67
T1 Colm Moriarty -5 67
3 Simon Thornton -4 68
T4 David Higgins -3 69
T4 Cian McNamara -3 69
T6 Rory McNamara -2 70
T6 Mark Staunton -2 70
T6 Robert Giles -2 70
T6 Stuart Grehan -2 70
T10 Brian McElhinney -1 71
T10 James Sugrue -1 71
For full results of first day see http://bglf.com/hv8cv