A busy end of season weekend saw three competition finals played off and a high-profile senior contest at Bantry that brought the 2020 All-Ireland winner Arthur McDonagh to the home base of one of his great rivals. It proved a profitable sojourn southward for the Fermoy man a
s he came away with a bowls of odds victory over Martin Coppinger who carried the local support. This senior tournament contest was always going to be an uphill battle for Coppinger after his opening shot whipped left almost off the play. McDonagh, on the other hand, hit the ground running, lining two massive shots away from the start line. Coppinger’s second was a good one but, when his third took the same trajectory as his first, he was a full bowl of odds in arrears at a very early stage. Coppinger fought it well in the next sequence. Three excellent efforts at ‘Casey’s’ brought the margin well under the bowl, but McDonagh’s huge cast to the novice line restored his shot advantage. Coppinger tried again with another big one but to no avail as McDonagh’s touch off the ‘wall’ brought him within sight of the finish line. They played for a total of €8,500.
Rosscarbery’s Maria Nagle won the ladies’ senior league final at Clondrohid on Saturday. Veronica O’Mahony did not make this three-way decider leaving it a straight shoot-out between the Carbery lady and Kealkil’s Claire O’Sullivan. For a €400 total, they played away from the ‘test centre’ with Claire’s fine opening cast giving her a narrow lead. It would, as it turned out, be the only time she held the ascendancy as her Ross rival lined impeccable second and third shots to take control. Maria was close to a bowl up after four, but a determined Claire beat big shots to stay in contention as they played to the ‘Bell Inn’. Very much on form, Maria lined a superb seventh to the ‘pub yard’ to go a big bowl of odds clear. Claire kept up her challenge with a huge ninth, but when her next two cracked off the play, the margin between them increased. There was no stopping Maria over the last quarter as perfectly delivered twelfth and thirteenth shots brought her past ‘Geoff’s lane’ and out the last corner. They sealed a two-bowl win.
Kenneth Murphy won the Beal na mBlath three-way final on Saturday when his super last throw saw him overtake Anthony Gould and Brendan O’Neill both of whom had looked likely winners at different stages. This junior decider which carried a sizable €8,400 between all three was an exciting hard-fought duel right to the death. City man, Gould, marginally more consistent in the opening exchanges held a sixty-metre lead on Murphy at ‘Bradfield’s cross’. O’Neill trailed a little further back at this juncture but was always challenging. Murphy forged in front for the first time at ‘Dan Joe’s lane’, but, at the point known as ‘the bulls gate’, O’Neill came back to lead with Gould now third. At the novice line, the Enniskeane man maintained his advantage as Gould and Murphy exchanged positions, the Kinsale man back in third. As an exciting finale unfolded, Gould’s massive twelfth looked to have been decisive but Murphy’s thirteenth to sight was his savour. O’Neill lost his lead during these exchanges, and it was Murphy, from hind of Gould’s mark, who took the winners prize when his thundering last shot proved unbeatable.
Castletownkenneigh’s Jack O’Callaghan won the Coachman’s Cup at Bauravilla on Saturday as another stirring finish brought him ahead of Mark Shannon with James Kelleher a bowl further back. Newcestown’s versatile performer, Kelleher, did not hit the high spots he achieved in an impressive Hourihane Cup qualifier on the road few weeks back and fell a bowl behind to both Shannon and O’Callaghan by the time they reached ‘Dekker’s’. The contest developed into a duel between the front two as Durrus man, Shannon, hit ‘the rock’ in nine sixty ahead of his Castletown rival and close on two up on Kelleher. The front man missed chances of extending his lead and was caught when his shot from the ‘bridge’ pulled right. O’Callaghan forged ahead and won the Coachman’s Cup in the last throw.
In other club action there was a masterful display by David Hegarty at Jagoe’s Mills, a winning junior A debut for Denis O’Sullivan at Whitechurch and a cracking win for Denis Wilmot at Curraheen. Hegarty’s Sunday afternoon clash with Declan Murphy at the Mid-Cork venue went to head-to-head with Messi and Mbappe and the sizable faithful who attended witnessed an excellent contest. The county junior C champion fired an incredible second shot to sight at ‘O’Brien’s corner’ to gain early leeway. Murphy, a recent tournament winner on the road, was closing the gap with excellent efforts of his own but fell a bowl in arrears when Hegarty unleashed a ferocious brace to the ‘railway line’. The Lyre man held his odds to the finish scoring the line in a near record twelve shots. They played for a €3,800 total.
It was not Murphy’s day at Jagoe’s Mills as he also lost out in the return score with Anthony Gould in the last shot of a tight contest that carried a €2,400 stake. County junior B winner, Denis O’Sullivan took on City junior A campaigner, Cian Boyle at Whitechurch. For a €4,200 total, O’Sullivan was at his best in the closing stages as he won by two bowls. Bandon’s Denis Wilmot made it a winning trip to the City when he defeated North East junior A, Michael Murphy at Curraheen. Wilmot was convincing in a two-bowl victory for a €2,100 stake.
In the vintage grade, Jerome O’Mahony ended the good run of Tom Fulham in the last of the sectional semi-finals at Beal na mBlath on Sunday morning. This was a very competitive section C penultimate round contest as Fulham shaded the tips in a bright opening to the ‘palms’. Nothing separated them in the next segment to ‘Bradfield’s cross’ before O’Mahony gained handy law with a big cast away from this juncture. Fivemilebridge man, O’Mahony, rose a bowl of odds at ‘Dan Joe’s lane’ and won by that margin. Whittled down to six from over one hundred starters, the stage is now set for the New Year completion of the 2022 vintage championship. The section A final will be played at Terelton between Ted Hegarty and Martin Connolly; the section B decider at a venue to be decided will involve 2021 outright winner, Micheál O’Callaghan and Donal Harnedy while Jerome O’Mahony and Pat Scanlon will contest the section C final. The three winners will play off for the overall 2022 vintage championship.
Road Bowling’s fixture schedule covering the ten-day festive period is extensive. Across the county, clubs have mini-tournaments, fund-raisers for various worthy causes and benefit scores to assist regional competitions through the coming year. Castletownbere is again a headline act with a two-day, eight score, programme on Wednesday December 28 and Thursday 29. The line-up is sure to entice bowling followers in their multitudes to the far west. RNLI are the beneficiaries of events on Wednesday and an early start will see Aidan Murphy and Gary Daly take issue. Ger Connolly and Shane Shannon renew acquaintance in the return, and this is followed by another meeting of heavy-hitters, Martin Coppinger and David Murphy. An enticing intermediate clash of Donal O’Riordan and Tommy O’Sullivan rounds off Wednesday’s action. Governing body, Bol Chumann, are supported in Thursday’s fixtures which have an intriguing opener involving All-Ireland junior A champion, John Creedon and former two-time intermediate winner, Gavin Twohig. Tim Young against Paul Buckley is another intermediate clash that will generate plenty of interest. Trevor O’Meara v Denis O’Sullivan and Noel O’Regan v Anthony Gould complete Thursday’s programme. Bantry men, Young and O’Riordan combine for the Grange challenge on St. Stephen’s Day when they take on the youthful pairing of Wayne Parkes and Tommy O’Sullivan. In the North-East division, a three-way team tournament will take place at Bottlehill while on Monday January 2, Johnny O’Driscoll and Micheal O’Sullivan engage at Jagoe’s Mills. Ballinacurra, Upton have their usual junior A Christmas tournament with three three-way junior A qualifiers on Dec 24, 26, and 27. Amongst the nine involved here are former senior, Edmund Sexton, this year’s junior B champion, Denis O’Sullivan, East Cork’s Mick Hurley and Rossmore’s Gavin Twohig. Beal na mBlath bowling club have a nine-man novice B tournament going on December 27/28 and again on New Year’s Day. The Tim Foley Cup final at Templemartin between Wayne Parkes and Tim Young is pencilled in for January 8. In North Cork, Beal na Morrive have junior scores on Friday 30 one of which sees Edmund Sexton and Michael O’Donoghue in opposition. In the City division The Bog Road have scores on Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day while Curraheen have a good selection of junior and novice fixtures on December 27/28 and again on January 2. As well as Grange the South-West division has a busy programme with Lyre and Shannonvale sharing over Christmas week. Ballygurteen are also in the frame with Jordan O’Sullivan playing a busy Edmund Sexton on New Year’s Day. West Cork clubs have fund-raisers throughout the week starting with Togher Cross on Christmas Eve. Drimoleague have scores on Tuesday 27; Ballinacarriga on Wednesday 28 where the clash of David Horgan and Paul Kingston is a highlight and Derrinasafa on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Punters are advised to keep up to date with fixtures on Bol Chumann’s Facebook page and website. Bol Chumann extends seasonal good wishes to all.