Connie O’Callaghan was a man of many talents, well-known and respected within the business community of his adopted Boston where his steel fabrication company prospered, and yet it was the passion he held for the sport of bowl-playing and the energy he brought to his every involvement that made him a national and internationally recognised figure. From Coolavokig, Macroom, Con hailed from a family steeped in the game’s traditions. Bowling was a mainstay throughout his formative years and, possessed with a personality that was truly larger than life, he soon became one of its greatest advocates. If there is a positive dynamic in bowling, Con possessed it. Enthusiastic, persuasive and leading from the front, Con, was the prime mover in establishing a flourishing bowling entity in North America, firstly in Boston and New York and then in West Virginia. David Powell wrote in tribute ‘Con showed our young men the serious competitive side of road bowling. He was our greatest teacher. His good works for the sport enabled it to grow and grow in WV more than he can ever know.’ The setting up of the junior C and novice All-Ireland series in 1992 received an enormous boost when North America were granted regional status and began to travel in numbers from 1996 onwards. Connie, Florry O’Mahony, the Fleming brothers and a host of others were to make the annual pilgrimage to wherever the finals were hosted, and they weren’t long in gaining their measure of success. Connie was a bowler of substance. Naturally confident and relishing the gamble, he possessed ability in abundance. These attributes came to the fore in two memorable All-Ireland novice 1 victories at Westport in 1999 and at Clogherhead, Co. Louth, in 2003. In both big-money deciders he defeated worthy Cork champions, Tony Morris of the City (’99) and Gerard Murray, Bauravilla (2003). Those ground-breaking triumphs were celebrated with gusto. He was the go-to man when the championships were held the following year at Wompatu State Park, Boston, Massachusetts, a first for the Association outside of Ireland and again when they returned there in 2018.
Con’s dedication to bowling and it’s well-being remained undiminished. He won tournaments in Boston, increased its membership there by encouraging many on the periphery to participate and was also a pillar of support for the game here on his frequent visits. His informed interventions and helpful advice was often warmly appreciated by the sport’s governing body. On his passing Seamus O’Tuama acknowledged his contribution ‘Con was one of the great characters of the sport, mighty craic and a driving force in Boston and beyond’. Mr. O’Tuama said it was ‘a very sad loss for the O’Callaghan family in a very short time. Connie and Brendan (who pre-deceased him in 2020) had bowling in their blood. They made the sport better for all of us who had the privilege to come in contact with them’. Connie’s funeral Mass was held in St. Mark’s Church, Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester on Monday March 27. His remains were repatriated to his native parish mid-week and the beautiful musical renditions at his Requiem Mass at St. Lachteen’s Church, Cill na Martra on Friday reflected the great love he had for the culture and traditions of his Gaeltacht homeland. His son, Mark, recalled bowling on the Masseytown road, Macroom, in the years before his family emigrated and how his father nurtured the sport in his new surroundings. Mark expressed his thanks for the support given to his family by the bowling community here at home and in North America. The uileann pipes played a sombre air as Connie was laid to rest in St. Lachteen’s Cemetery. Sincere sympathies are extended to his sons Mark and Michael, their mother, Margaret, brothers Micheál (Bol Chumann Honorary Secretary); John, Paddy, sister, Catherine, to his nephews, nieces and extended O’Callaghan families.
Taking top billing over the Easter weekend is the annual Bol Fada festival on the Keady-Tassagh road in south Armagh. For close on three decades this popular Easter time festival has attracted players of the highest calibre and accommodated bowlers from all age groups, male and female. This year’s hosting is no exception. As always, the culmination of the weekend’s bowling is the battle for the Joe McVeigh Cup. Starting at Tassagh Bridge at 4.00pm on Sunday evening, Arthur McDonagh, the current holder following his victory over Colm Rafferty last year, will defend against Thomas Mackle.
The full Bol Fada programme is as follows:
Friday April 7: 2.00pm, Ethan Hughes/Lily O’Rourke v Daniel O’Sullivan/Laura Sexton; 3.30pm, Paul O’Reilly v Tommy O’Sullivan; 5.00pm, Ronan McClelland/Dervla Toal v Ger Connolly/Meghan Collins: Saturday, April 8, 10.30am, Pete Carr v Darragh Dempsey; 12.30 Frank Oliver/Brendan Rafferty v David Hegarty/Darren Kelly; 3.00pm, Brian O’Reilly v Michael Bohane; Sunday April 9, 11.00am Pete Grimley Cup, Colm Rafferty v Patrick Flood; 1.00pm, Aaron Hughes v Michael O’Donoghue; 4.00pm Joe McVeigh Cup, Thomas Mackle v Arthur McDonagh.
For those not travelling northwards the Carbery-South/West annual inter-regional fund-raisers have an attractive line-up of scores right through the holiday weekend. They start at Reenascreena on Good Friday when Ivan Buchannon and Jack O’Callaghan engage in the opening score and conclude at Caheragh on Easter Monday evening with a mixed doubles contest involving Edwin Collins and Triona Murphy (Carbery) taking on Gearoid McCarthy and Margaret Sexton (South-West). Rosscarbery on Saturday and The Marsh Road on Sunday have a full complement of four scores on each day.
High profile club scores at Bantry, Corrin and Ballinacurra, Upton, resulted in wins for Michael Bohane, Martin Coppinger and Eamonn Bowen. County senior champion, Bohane showed his appetite for the fray ahead of his sojourn northwards and indeed within weeks of the defence of his title with a last shot victory over Gary Daly in the Bantry senior tournament on Sunday. This semi-final joust for the Dan O’Riordan Cup hinged on a blistering start by Bohane whose opening three covered a huge distance and gave him a bowl of odds lead. Daly’s fight-back brought it well under the bowl at the half-way point, but Bohane yielded no more and will contest the decider with Arthur McDonagh. Martin Coppinger came from a long way back to forge a last shot win from Patrick Flood at Corrin. For a €4,600 total, Flood missing sight at the last bend gave Coppinger an opening which he availed of to take the score with his only fore bowl. Eamonn Bowen did the damage early in his contest with Wayne Parkes at Ballinacurra on Saturday. For a €6,200 total, the Carrignavar man was a bowl clear at ‘Perrott’s’ and had doubled his lead by Innishannon cross. Also here, Declan O’Donovan got he better of West Cork’s Brian Horgan, A bowl of odds separated the youthful duo for a stake of €2,700. Also here, Tom Reaney defeated Ryan Buckley by a bowl for €3,400 and North Cork’s Damien Burns defeated Carbery’s John Cahalane by a bowl for €2,600.
In the Ballinagree novice 1 tournament John Connolly defeated James Kelleher by almost a bowl for a €3,100 total. Missing sight from the ‘bridge’ cost Kelleher in this one and, when the Shannonvale man made it out, he had cushion enough for a final spot where he will contest a three-way decider with Conor Lucey and the winner of Jack O’Callaghan v David Crowley. Back the road at Ballinagree, John Madden defeated Matthew Bradley in the last shot for €1,380. In the John Murray Cup semi-final at Ardcahan on Sunday, a desperately close contest saw Martin Murphy edge out Danny O’Donovan, last shot, for €1,300. Martin will play his fellow Togher Cross clubman, Michael A Cronin in the decider. In the new junior A tournament at Ballygurteen, Jimmy O’Driscoll and Mick Hurley had a competitive battle on Saturday for a €2,000 total. O’Driscoll took it in the last shot. In a novice tournament semi-final at Jagoe’s Mills on Wednesday, Derrick Murphy defeated Deccie O’Mahony for €600 and, on Sunday here, John Paul O’Driscoll defeated Stephen Murphy, last shot, for €360. In the Jerry O’Donovan Memorial Cup at Carrignavar, Maurice Connolly and Simon Buckley had a bowl of odds to spare on Eamonn Connolly and Michael Barry for a €2,400 total stake. Back here, Tom O’Callaghan defeated Shane Lotty by a bowl for €1,000.
Championship action continues apace in the regions with week evening scores now adding to the mix. In Mid Cork junior B at Castletownkennigh on Saturday, Bryan O’Halloran showed his paces in a two-bowl win over John Shorten for a €900 total. In the semi-final he will play Denis Murphy at Beal na mBlath. That doughty campaigner, Mick Murphy, Innishannon, is on the trail again and began his novice veteran tilt with a hard-earned first round win over Kinsale’s John O’Mahony in the first of Mid Cork’s week evening scores at Jagoe’s Mills on Monday 27th. It was a last shot win for Murphy for a €1,400 stake. In novice D at Ballinacurra on Tuesday, Paul O’Donoghue defeated Bernard O’Callaghan for €1,600 aside. Eoin McCarthy defeated Ronan O’Donovan in a return score here coming form arrears for a last shot victory. Their contest carried a €1,600 total stake. In Mid novice D at Templemartin, Damien Healy defeated Paul Twomey for €700 and Mark Cahalane defeated Cian Collins. In Mid novice D scores at Newcestown mid-week, William Allen defeated Kevin O’Sullivan and Barry Murphy won from James O’Sullivan. In novice D at Castletownkenneigh, Finbarr O’Sullivan defeated Sean Galvin, one bowl, for €600. Beal na mBlath hosted the Mid novice C first rounder between Dermot Crowley and Denis O’Driscoll. Crowley won this one in the last shot.
In West Cork Brian O’Sullivan, Johnstown, hit form at Ballinacarriga in his U16 win from Jonathan Deane. A blistering drive from Manch to sight at ‘Hehir’s’ was the catalyst for this victory. Deane, a brother of U18 champion, Mark, showed plenty too in his first year at competitive level but could not reel in his consistent rival. Also in West Cork U16, at Durrus Daniel O’Sullivan, last years county U14 winner won from David Russell and Oisin Murray won from Eamonn Crowley. At Drinagh in U16, Ethan Hurley won from Cian O’Callaghan. There was success to for the Johnstown O’Sullivan brothers when Con advanced in U18 with a win at Drinagh from Oisin Murphy-Hurley. Defending champion, Mark Deane won his opening round U18 contest with Luke McCarthy at Kealkil. On a busy weekend at Drinagh a high-quality novice C contest saw Brian Murray and Kieran O’Brien go head-to-head. The bowling was top class from both protagonists before Murray, a member of Ardcahan’s Sliabh Ban winning team of the previous week, scored the line in twelve and took the verdict by a bowl of odds. The stake at issue was €1,540. Also at Drinagh in a novice veteran score of swaying fortunes, Jan Tessyman defeated John Tringle. At Bantry in U16 girls, Niamh O’Connell won from Eabha Kehilly and Kimi Bosna won from Ciara Lennon. In novice D at Ballinacarriga, Finian Hurley defeated Connie O’Driscoll in a good score for a €500 stake. At Togher Cross novice veteran, John Murphy defeated Sean Sheehan and, in the same grade at Derrinasafa, Seamus O’Sullivan defeated Anthony O’Connell.
In the South-West novice C at Lyre, Kilbrittain’s Conor Sheehy won from Leap native, Denis Whooley, last shot, for €600 and in novice veteran at Fisher’s Cross, Denis O’Donovan defeated Donal O’Sullivan. In Gaeltacht championships U18 at Ballyvourney, Ian O’Donoghue defeated Darragh Murphy and Liam Twomey defeated Luke Lyons. In novice C at Terelton, Joseph Creedon defeated Tomás Murphy.
In the City division at Paddoes, novice veteran, Michael Twohig defeated Pat Cunningham, last shot, and back here, Birol Kat defeated Jerh Forde by two bowls. At Curraheen in the junior B championship, Peter Nagle defeated Thomas Boyle in the last shot for €2,200 and Boyle was also on the receiving end in the return going down to Garret Bourke by a bowl of odds for €1,400. At Templemichael Maurice Connolly held off Dave Mackey’s spirited fightback to claim a last shot win from their junior C championship contest that carried a stake of €2,000. In novice C at Templemichael on Sunday, Paul Murphy defeated Darragh O’Donovan and Con O’Donovan defeated Dylan Hayes.
North Cork who, admirably, give defeated first round protagonists a second chance in a backdoor competition had a busy mid-week schedule starting with a three-way boys U10 semi-final at Ballinagree on Tuesday. After a score of plenty skill and enthusiasm, Donagh Murphy emerged the winner from Jack Ronan and A J Mackey. At the same venue on Wednesday, in novice D, Paul Burke won from Oisin Fogarty. Back the road, Will Harrington defeated Gary Murphy for €200. Kilcorney was rained off on Thursday while Beal na Morrive had a cracker on Friday when Stephen Spillane and Ruairi O’Connell took issue win the novice C championship. For a €1,000 total, Spillane withstood a ferocious fightback from last years county novice D winner, O’Connell, to take the verdict by a bowl of odds. O’Connell does have that second chance to reignite his challenge. Back Beal na Morrive, Jack Oldham defeated Colin McCarthy by a bowl for €1,300. At Ballinagree on Saturday, in novice veteran quarterfinals, Conor Roche defeated John Welsh and Ned Kelleher won from Mick Casey by a bowl of odds. Two cracking novice C scores at Beal na Morrive on Saturday resulted in wins for Darren Burns and Billy Healy. Burns won a thrilling contest with Tom Dennehy, last shot, for €1,900 while Healy edged Patrick Sexton by a bowl of €2,100. In novice D at Ballinagree on Sunday, Paul Twomey defeated James Roche for €1,040 and Adrian O’Connor defeated Conor Casey.
Down East Cork/West Waterford way Phillip O’Donovan gave a hint of possible championship success later when he delivered a power-packed performance at Clashmore in his junior veterans win over Michael Wall. Delivering shots reminiscent of his senior days, O’Donovan won by almost two. There is still a bit to go for regional success with Mick Hurley also in the frame. Back the road at the Waterford venue, a doubles contest saw Wall team up with Seamus O’Tuama to defeat Willie Quirke and Donie O’Sullivan, last shot, for €500.