Shane Lowry withdraws from Rio Olympics

Ireland’s Shane Lowry has taken the decision to withdraw from the upcoming Olympic games in Rio due to fears over the Zika virus.

The Offaly man has released the following statement regarding his decision:

Statement on my Olympic Games participation pic.twitter.com/KY4YBzFa3g

— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) June 28, 2016

This follows the decision of fellow Irish golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to withdraw their participation for the summer Olmypic games.

Clara man Lowry has recently been playing some superb stuff, having led the US Open going into the last round before enduring an extremely tough final day.

The Olympic Council of Ireland have also released a statement in response to Lowry's decision.

"The OCI is disappointed to hear of the news that Shane Lowry is withdrawing from Rio 2016 due to his concerns over the Zika virus," they said.

"However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect Shane's decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.

"The OCI already note that we are very fortunate to have three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington, who now looks likely to gain automatic qualification.

"Seamus Power is currently the next highest-ranked Irish player and his possible qualification will be determined on the 11th July."

Luke Fitzgerald retires from professional rugby at 28

Luke Fitzgerald

Luke Fitzgerald

Luke Fitzgerald has retired from rugby because of a neck injury, it has been confirmed.

The 28-year old Leinster wing missed Ireland's tour to South Africa with a knee injury picked up in the Pro12 final loss to Connacht, having missed the Six Nations due to a medial knee ligament problem.

As reported in today's Irish Independent, it emerged that a serious neck injury sustained in 2012 prompted Fitzgerald to strongly consider retirement.

Leinster rugby have this morning confirmed the news that Fitzgerald will retire.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Fitzgerald said: "I've had a wonderful rugby career which makes it easy for me to move on to the next stage of my life.

"It's been an amazing journey in which I got to experience the highs and lows that come with professional sport and I have learned a huge amount from each experience. I'm now building on that foundation through completing my business degree.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunities I have had, the people with whom I've worked and the lifelong friends I have made. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the medical staff and coaches I've worked with throughout my career and at Blackrock College.

"It's been an honour and a privilege to represent my province, my country and the British & Irish Lions during my career and I'm glad to finish my career as a 'one club man'.

"The support I got whilst playing for all three teams during the good times and the tough times is something I'll cherish and never forget for the rest of my life.

"I'd like to acknowledge my parents, Andrea and Des, my siblings Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah and Aaron for their incredible support throughout the course of my rugby career.

"Lastly, I'd like to wish everyone in Leinster and Irish rugby the best for the future and I look forward to taking my place in the stand supporting everyone in the future."

South Africa deny Ireland series win

TWICE, the prize of a series win in South Africa was there for Ireland to take and twice they let it slip.

In Johannesburg last week, they wilted at altitude in the face of a Springbok power-surge and lost a 16-point lead in the final quarter, but there was no such excuse in the decider in Port Elizabeth where Ireland blew a glorious chance to make history.

Joe Schmidt’s side changed their game-plan and attacked throughout, owning 68pc of the ball and spending 73pc of the game in the South African half but only scored one try.

They missed two chances that have to be considered open goals at this level either side of half-time and finished the game with the ball in hand, pounding the Springbok line in futility.

There will be anger over referee Glen Jackson’s decision to award Willie le Roux a yellow card for his dangerous first-half challenge on Tiernan O’Halloran when it might have been red, but Ireland still had enough opportunities to win.

This has been a valuable tour for Schmidt who has used all of his players and has discovered a host of new players who can cope at this level, but that will be of little consolation on the long trip home.

Ireland began with positive intent, but they found themselves behind after six minutes after their good play was spoiled by a cheap penalty concession from Luke Marshall that allowed Elton Jantjies put his side on the board from the touch-line.

Ireland then conceded a penalty at scrum-time after Rory Best threw a crooked throw but the Lions out-half missed his long-distance effort.

The game should have turned on an 11th minute incident when O’Halloran, who had lookeds sharp went up for a Faf du Klerk box-kick and was up-ended by le Roux.

The Connacht full-back came down heavily on his neck and shoulder and referee Jackson had a long look before opting to issue a yellow card.

Based on the decision to issue CJ Stander with a red card in the opening Test, he was a lucky boy.

Still, Ireland were intent on making the most of their 10 minutes with an extra man despite losing O’Halloran for a period as he went for a head-check.

From clean line-out ball Stuart Olding made good yardage in midfield before Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson and CJ Stander carried hard  as Ireland went through the phases.

Eventually, the white wall crumbles as Marshall got outside Jantjies to score.

Jackson converted, but followed it up with a poor miss after good work from Stander as O’Halloran returned and le Roux followed with the score at 7-3.

The Ulster out-half made no mistake minutes later when handed another opportunity by Warren Whiteley to extend his side’s lead.

The Springbok No 8 was having a mixed afternoon and he spoiled a good attack when he allowed Jordi Murphy dislodge the ball but the hosts drew closer with a Jantjies penalty minutes later as Jack McGrath was penalised for bringing down the scrum.

Ireland should have furthered their lead with a brilliant counter-attacking try when Iain Henderson stripped Faf du Klerk of possession and Jackson moved the ball wide to Marshall who broke free by stepping inside and then arced out before throwing a forward pass to Earls who simply had to stroll over if it had gone to hand.

Instead, they went in behind at half-time as Siya Kolisi poached the ball on half-way and the ‘Boks broke themselves with JP Pietersen running on to a perfectly weighted Jantjies kick to score.

The fly-half converted and his side led by three at the interval.

O’Halloran didn’t return after the interval meaning Matt Healy made his full debut and Keith Earls switched to full-back but Ireland continued their positive play after half-time and again might have led but for a brilliant du Klerk intercept as Jackson gave the final pass to Earls after some clever, pre-planned set-up in the forwards.

Instead, it was South Africa who struck next with Ruan Combrinck nailing a penalty from inside his own half after the replacement props Steven Kitshoff and Julian  Redelinghuys made an immediate impact in their first scrum.

Joe Schmidt’s players were visibly fading, but the coach was again reluctant to introduce his bench and by the time Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock and Ultan Dillane came on it was a two score game as Jantjies put his side nine points in front.

From the kick-off, Rory Best forced a penalty that allowed Jackson cancel that score out and with 10 minutes remaining there were six points between them.

Ireland kept believing and the fresh impetus from the bench was making a difference as Sean Cronin raced 50m into the Springboks’ territory, but despite a dramatic series of phases the visitors couldn’t find the gap they needed and eventually Ruddock went off his feet.

Still, Ireland came and brilliant foot-work from Stuart Olding took them close to the line and they battered at the line repeatedly. Finally, the ball reached Keith Earls who had Healy outside him, but du Klerk rushed up and hit him hard. In piled the ‘Boks and the winger held on.

That was it, the series was lost and Ireland went on their holidays full of regret.

 

SOUTH AFRICA – W le Roux; R Combrinck, L Mapoe, D de Allende, JP Pietersen; E Jantjes, F du Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (capt), L Mapoe; T Mtawarira (S Kitshoff 57), A Strauss (B Mbonambi 79(, F Malherbe (J Redelinghuys 57), E Etzebeth (F Mostert 74), PS du Toit; F Louw, S Kolisi (J Kriel 60), W Whiteley.

IRELAND – T O’Halloran (M Healy 11-19 HIA, h-t); A Trimble, L Marshall (K Earls 77), S Olding, K Earls (I Madigan 73); P Jackson, C Murray (E Reddan 69); J McGrath, R Best (capt) (S Cronin 73), M Ross (T Furlong 51); I Henderson (U Dillane 69), D Toner; CJ Stander (R Ruddock 69), J Murphy, J Heaslip.

Referee: G Jackson (New Zealand)

 

Ireland defeated by England in World Rugby U-20 Championship

Ireland’s hopes of glory in their first World Rugby U-20 Championship were blown away by a fired-up English side who were on top throughout to claim their third title in the grade, dominating throughout and running in six tries to Ireland’s three.

Ireland, having come from behind to win so many games, knew they needed to get in front and not allow England get an upperhand. But that never looked like materialising as England blitzed them from the start and raced into a 21-0 lead.

Irish No.8 Max Deegan denied Johnny Williams a centre try after five minutes but the relief was short-lived for Nigel Carolan’s men as England continued to pile forward with captain Harry Mallinder dictating the game and centre Joe Marchant also outstanding.

But the breakthrough for England came three minutes later when Marchant broke through for a fine try, which Mallinder converted.

They turned the screw up front, driving from a scrum to get their second try from No.8 Callum Chick after 27 minutes, with Mallinder converting from the touchline for 14-0.

Ireland really needed to get the next score to have any chance but it was England who extended their lead through lock Huw Taylor, although there was a hint of a forward pass in the build-up.

That put England 21-0 in front at the break and Mallinder killed any notion of a comeback inside two minutes of the restart when he raced through to score before adding the extras.

Hooker Adam McBurney eventually got Ireland moving with a try off a lineout after 47 minutes and Johnny McPhillps converted.

But man of the match Mallinder, who finished with 25 points, got over for his second try and converted it to make it 35-7 in the third quarter.

Ireland never gave up and Shane Daly crossed after a superb break from deep by full-back Jacob Stockdale, with McPhillips converted to reduce the gap.

But then Ireland scrum-half Stephen Kerins was binned for blocking and while Ireland initially only conceded the score from the penalty, England got their sixth try before it was back to 15 against 15 when Marchant got over.

Ireland refused to die and Deegan got a good try in the closing stages with Brett Connon converting.

But that was as close as they got as England ran out deserving winners to claim the title.

Scorers:

England: Tries: H Mallinder (2), J Marchant (2), C Chick, H Taylor. Cons: Mallinder (6). Pens: Mallinder

Ireland: Tries: A McBurney, S Daly, M Deegan. Cons: J McPhillips (2), B Connon

 

England: M Malins; S Aspland-Robinson, J Marchant, J Williams, M Gallagher; H Mallinder, M Green; L Boyce, J Singleton, B Walker; S South, H Taylor; G Nott, W Evans, C Chick.

Replacements: H Randall for Green (32), W Stuart for B Walker (53), A Kitchener for South (61), J Willis for Nott (61), T West for Boyce (65), C Piper for Singleton (69), O Thorley for Gallagher (72), M Wright for Aspland-Robinson (72).

 

Ireland: J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins / Ulster); M Byrne (Terenure / Leinster), S Daly (Cork Con / Munster), C O’Brien (Clontarf / Leinster), H Keenan (UCD / Leinster); J McPhillips (Queen’s University / Ulster), S Kerins (Sligo / Connacht); A Porter (UCD / Leinster), A McBurney (Ballymena / Ulster), B Betts (Young Munster / Munster); S O’Connor (Cashel / Munster), J Ryan (Lansdowne / Leinster); G Jones (UCD / Leinster), D Aspil (St Mary’s RFC / Leinster), M Deegan (Lansdowne / Leinster).

Replacements: J O’Brien (UCD / Leinster) for C O’Brien (56), B Connon (Newcastle Falcons) for McPhillips (57), V O’Brien (Cork Con / Munster) for McBurney (61), K Brown (Shannon / Munster) for Brown (62), N Saunders (Epsom College/Exiles) for Kerins (70), E Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster) for O’Connor (70), A Coyle (Naas/Leinster) for Betts (75), J Bollard (Dublin University / Leinster) for Porter 79).

By JOHN FALLON 

Schmidt fumes as Ireland lose final South Africa test

Pieter-Steph du Toit scored a crucial South Africa try

Pieter-Steph du Toit scored a crucial South Africa try

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt would not be drawn on referee Glen Jackson’s performance in Saturday’s series decider against South Africa after the New Zealander chose to issue Springboks full-back Willie le Roux with only a yellow card for a dangerous collision with Tiernan O’Halloran.

Two weeks after CJ Stander was shown a red card for a high challenge on Pat Lambie in Ireland's win in Cape Town and was subsequently banned for the second Test defeat, the officials opted for leniency after O'Halloran was upended in the air and landed awkwardly.

The Connacht star needed a head injury assessment and although he passed and returned to the field, he was replaced at half-time as a result of a rib injury he picked up in the incident.

Ireland ultimately lost 19-13 to the hosts, who claimed a 2-1 series win on the back of a huge defensive effort.

Despite the apparent inconsistency in the officiating across the series, Schmidt kept his counsel on the call.

"I don't really make comments on those incidents, other people deal with them and I probably would still say we were disappointed with CJ's red card in the first game but I haven't got any comment to offer really on the incident this evening," he said.

"Look, we spent six hours going back through the game to deliver our referee report.

"We send that back and we get a bit of feedback from referees.

"We use the official channels to comment, we don't comment publicly about referee performance because they are an incredibly important part of the game, they have an incredibly difficult job to do and I think they go out to do it as best they can.

"We could probably point the finger at a few errors that we made today. We might have done enough to get over the line otherwise so referees are very human as well."

That was a theme for Schmidt who lamented his side's lack of a clinical edge in the Port Elizabeth defeat.

The tourists dominated possession and territory but could not take the chances they created, with Luke Marshall guilty of a poor pass to Keith Earls before half-time and Paddy Jackson left ruing a Faf de Klerk intercept as he attempted to put Andrew Trimble away.

"We showed a bit of inexperience to be honest, a few times," Schmidt said.

"What could have happened, what might have happened is something that those players will have learned.

"There's a 14-point swing just before half-time when we make a great break up the pitch, we're one pass away from putting Keith Earls away and the pass isn't efficiently delivered and we miss the opportunity with the forward pass.

"Faf de Klerk leaping to get that ball, there's not too many people around him and with a little bit of patience we could have made the most of that opportunity.

"The maul at that time was still upright and potentially could have kept going, I thought it was a great option to swing back and attack that short side with good numbers but you've got to be clinical, you've got to be efficient in your execution, because in a Test match you don't get too many invitations.

"We got a couple of nice invites tonight that we didn't turn up for."

At the end of a 17-Test, 52-week season, Schmidt's overriding emotion was one of disappointment that his team could not get the job done.

"I'm massively disappointed," he said.

"It's 12 years since we've been in this country. To grab the opportunity last week, to have it in our hand and to be pick-pocketed the way we were with a superb South African comeback and then today to have so much energy into a game after a 52-week season is testament to the fortitude of the players.

"But when you don't get what you're looking for, you're always going to be disappointed particularly when it was such a fine margin at the end of it.

"When your coaching, you want perfection but you've always to take a bit of pride in the work ethic that's delivered by you players."

Graeme McDowell announces he won’t go to Rio Olympics

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell is the latest high-profile golfer to turn down the chance to play at the Olympics just a day after compatriot Rory McIlroy announced he would not be competing.

McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, was next in line for qualification for the Irish team following the withdrawal of McIlory, who cited concerns over the Zika virus.

However, the 36-year-old insists he had already made a decision not to go to Rio de Janeiro as his wife is pregnant and due to give birth around the same time as the Games in Brazil.

"I woke yesterday morning to the news that Rory McIlory had withdrawn from the Irish Olympic Golf team, putting me in line for an automatic spot on the team," said McDowell in a statement on Twitter.

"As many within golf will know my wife Kristin is pregnant and is due to have our second child just a couple of weeks after the Olympic Golf competition concludes.

"I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the US, where I and my family live, in the weeks running up to the birth

"Unfortunately I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team. I have informed Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision."

Rory McIlroy pulls out of Olympics over Zika virus fears

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will not compete for Ireland in the Rio Olympics golf event after deciding to withdraw from the Games due to fears over the Zika virus outbreak.

McIlroy released a statement on the matter today.

"After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.

"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.

"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me.

"I will continue to endeavor to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it."

In a statement, the Olympic Council of Ireland said:

The OCI is extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to Rio. However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.
 
Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.
 
The OCI and our medical team have taken our lead from the IOC on the zika situation, as we do in all matters. They have provided us with every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe for all athletes.
 
We are now following the IOC’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Rio 2016 organisers, the World Health Organisation and national health authorities, to ensure that Team Ireland’s athletes are kept fully updated with the latest and best advice and that they are equipped to take all necessary precautions.
 
The OCI regularly updates the private Team Ireland app guidelines and we have held a number of sport seminars and workshops for team leaders, coaches and medical support staff. The OCI is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the welfare of Team Ireland’s athletes at Rio 2016.

Ireland through to World U20’s final after comprehensive win against Argentina

Jacob Stockdale of Ireland scores a try

Jacob Stockdale of Ireland scores a try

Nigel Carolan’s superb side are through to their first World Rugby U-20 Championship final after producing a superb performance to oust Argentina.

The Irish were in control from the outset and never looked being denied a place in the final on Saturday evening at the AJ Bell Stadium with a performance which was brimful of confidence.

A superb start by Ireland saw them lead by 21-7 at the break after taking the game to Argentina from the outset.

And they got a superb start when full-back Jacob Stockdale got over for a try after eight minutes after an excellent crosskick from out0half Johnny McPhillips.

Ireland doubled their lead after 23 minutes when No.8 Max Deegan intercepted a pass on his 22 and had the legs to go all the way and score in the left corner.

And Nigel Carolan’s men turned the screw just before the half hour mark in a superb backline movement where both wingers Matthew Byrne and Hugo Keenan were involved to send Ulster’s Stockdale away for his second try, with McPhillips kicking his third conversion.

But Ireland were given a glimpse of the cutting edge which saw Argentina also win all three pool games when out-half Domingo Miotti put his captain Juan Cruz Mallia over a minute from the break for a converted try which left it 21-7 at the break.

It was crucial that Ireland got the next score and McPhillips duly the lead with a penalty from 30 metres after 52 minutes to make it 24-7.

McPhillips put 20 points between them with 18 minutes left as a tiring Argentina side coughed up penaltiesm and that margin went out to 23 with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Argentina were reduced to 14 men when replacement prop Santiago Mare was red-carded for a headbutt on Irish lock Sean O’Connor.

And Ireland finished in style when Shane Daly intercepted to go over in the final play of the night, with Brett Connon converting for a 30 points success.

Scorers – Ireland: J Stockdale 2, M Deegan, S Daly tries; J McPhillips 3, B Connon cons; J McPhillips 3 pens.

Argentina: J Cruz Mallia try; D Miotti con.

Ireland: J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins); M Byrne (Terenure College), S Daly (Cork Constitution), C O'Brien (Clontarf) (J O'Brien (UCD) 60), H Keenan (UCD); J McPhillips (Queen's University) (B Connon (Newcastle Falcons) 72), S Kerins (Sligo) (N Saunders (Harlequins) 72); A Porter (UCD) (J Bollard (Dublin University) 72), A McBurney (Ballymena) (V O'Brien (Cork Constitution) 65), B Betts (Young Munster) (A Coyle (Naas) 72); S O'Connor (Cashel), J Ryan (Lansdowne) (E Mintern (Cork Constitution) 72); G Jones (UCD) (K Brown (Shannon) 72), D Aspil (St. Mary's College), M Deegan (Lansdowne).

Argentina: B Delguy; T Malanos, J Cruz Mallia, S Mare (M Osadczuk 51), J Dominguez; D Miotti (M Elias 60), P Baronio (L Bazan Velez 46); R Ricco (S Pulella 60), G Baldunciel (R Pretz 65), S Medrano (G Del Pazo 54); F Molina, I Calas (C Roura 46); M Kremer, M Romanini (Ricco 76), V Boronat (B Stavile Bravin 53).

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).

by JOHN FALLON at Manchester City Academy Stadium

Shane Lowry ‘bitterly disappointed’ to miss out on US Open title

Lowry said: "I'm bitterly disappointed"

Lowry said: "I’m bitterly disappointed"

Shane Lowry admitted he was “bitterly disappointed” to miss out on a first major title after squandering a four-shot lead in the final round of the US Open.

Lowry became the first player since Payne Stewart in 1998 to fail to turn such an advantage into victory after struggling to a closing 76 on an incident-packed final day at Oakmont.

"It's not easy to get yourself in the position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn't take it," Lowry said. "I'm bitterly disappointed.

"But you can only learn from your mistakes. I always say it's only a mistake if you don't learn from it. I'm sure I learned a lot from today and I don't know what it is yet, but when I'm in that position again, and I know I will be, I'll handle it probably a little bit better."

Lowry dropped four shots in the first 10 holes to fall two behind Dustin Johnson, but was effectively level when he birdied the 12th as Johnson would eventually be penalised a shot for causing his ball to move when addressing a par putt back on the fifth.

However, the 29-year-old from Offaly then three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th to end his chances of becoming the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open.

"I just kept on hitting okay shots," he added. "It wasn't even great shots, it wasn't even bad shots. Kept hitting it to 25, 30, 35 feet. On these greens, it's tricky. Kept leaving myself a lot of work to do.

"It caught up with me on 14 and on 15 and 16 as well. To do that at that time in this tournament…. the more I think about it, the more upset I get."

Lowry refused to blame being told of Johnson's possible penalty for his struggles, adding: "We were told walking on 12. It didn't affect the way I played. If anything, I credit

Dustin for playing the way he played on the way in, having that hanging over him, because I probably would have wanted to know straight away if it was me."

Sergio Garcia was effectively one off the lead with five to play, only to match Lowry's bogeys on the 14th, 15th and 16th and finish in a share of fifth place, his 18th top 10 in majors.

"I felt both Scottie (Scott Piercy) and I played extremely well under the conditions," the 36-year-old said. "We've done really well and unfortunately it was one mental error for me on 14, knowing how fast that putt really is.

"I was just coming off a birdie, I was thinking 'let's make another one and keep going' and got too greedy.

"It's been a while since I've been out there in contention for four rounds in a major so it was great. Obviously there's a lot of nerves, but I really enjoyed it.

"I think that I handled it quite well, and unfortunately, came up a little bit short. But I'm still happy with the week."

England's Lee Westwood failed to make a serious push for his first major title, having started the final round in with a shout at five shots off the lead.

Playing alongside Johnson, Westwood played the front nine in eight over par and eventually slumped to a closing 80.

Shane Lowry leads US Open by four ahead of final round

Shane Lowry in action at Oakmont

Shane Lowry in action at Oakmont

Ireland’s Shane Lowry will take a four-shot lead into the final round of the US Open after finishing his delayed third round in brilliant fashion on Sunday.

Lowry had four holes remaining when play resumed at 7am local time and played them in two under par to complete a superb 65, equalling the lowest round of the week.

The 29-year-old also equalled the seven-under-par 54-hole scoring record at Oakmont set by eventual winner Ernie Els in 1994, with Americans Dustin Johnson and Andrew Landry his nearest challengers on three under.

Lee Westwood and Daniel Summerhays were a shot further back, with South Africa's Branden Grace the only other player under par after completing a 66 on Saturday evening.

Lowry, who called a penalty on himself during the second round when his ball moved as he addressed a birdie putt on the 16th, holed from nine feet for birdie on the 15th and five feet for another on the 17th after a superb pitch from heavy rough.

The world number 41 – coincidentally the same ranking as Angel Cabrera when the Argentinian won at Oakmont in 2007 – was in danger of dropping a shot on the 18th when he left a long birdie attempt 10 feet short, but calmly holed for par before punching the air in delight.

"To be honest I would have taken four pars and gone home for a little rest, " said Lowry, who won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron last year, just 115 miles from Oakmont.

"I hit a big drive down 15 and only had a nine iron in there, hit it pretty close and made that, hit a lovely pitch on 17 and a really good save on the last.

"It was a really good morning's work and that was one of the best rounds of my career, a 65 on this course. I just need to try stay in the moment, stay patient and see what happens.

"I've not have many good results this season but feel like I have been playing some of the best golf of my career and hopefully I can keep going and you never know what can happen."

A victory for Lowry on Sunday would make it 10 major titles for Irish golfers in the last 10 years after the successes of Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, although the 29-year-old from Offaly would be the first from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open.

Asked if he believed he could add a major to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title he won last year, Lowry told Sky Sports 4: "I feel like my game's good enough and there's no reason I can't do that if I play well this afternoon.

"I've never felt so comfortable on a course in my life. I'm not sure it's going to be the same story on the first tee this afternoon but I am where I am and I've worked hard to get here."