Plus a look ahead to the All-Irelands at Ballincurrig
Back in its routine slot, Cork’s mid-July All-Ireland series has six national deciders down for decision on this coming weekend. Ballincurrig are hosts as the East Cork/West Waterford region commence their two-year term with an enticing line-up that includes a mixture of experienced old hands attempting to put the gloss on what has been an outstanding campaign for them thus far plus a number of young tyros on the verge of a spectacular breakthrough. Into the former category come the junior A finalists north and south who face-off at 1.30pm on Saturday July 9. John Creedon and James Oliver have been around the block, both having seen time in the game’s higher grades. Down a notch, they have shown in their provincial campaigns that they are not far off their best days and a fascinating duel awaits. Patrick Flood is still in his teens but has blitzed this year’s intermediate championship, in the earlier rounds in particular. His form in the final against Donal O’Riordan was a little bit off and he will need his best game against an opponent who was not fazed in the powder-keg that was the recent Armagh-Galway football quarterfinal. Ethan Rafferty has bowling pedigree in abundance, a scion of the famed Toal family, he may prove Flood’s stiffest test yet. The greatest exponent of the women’s game will attempt to win a tenth national title when the senior women’s final get’s underway at 3.00pm on Sunday. Kelly Mallon has iconic status at this stage and will carry the mantle of favouritism but Hannah Sexton’s exceptional performance on Sunday last indicates a serious challenge from the Cork camp. Kelly, captain of Armagh ladies footballers, has a championship quarterfinal against Kerry on the previous Saturday.
The three under-age finals have their own intrigue. Patrick O’Donnell has been in top form in U18 and will be fancied against Anthony McVeigh. Rachel Kingston or Natalie Dempsey will face a tough opponent in Caoimhe Rafferty, who shone at Ballyvourney last year when winning the 2020 U16 championship. In U14 Ulster have an impressive champion in Ethan Hughes who won in U12 at Tullysaran in 2019. Cork, though, have the battle-hardened Daniel O’Sullivan from Ardcahan who has come through a rigorous qualifying process.
Events throw-off at 11.30am on Saturday and conclude with the women’s senior final at 3.00pm final on Sunday. The full programme reads.
Saturday July 9, 11.30am, Boy’s U14 final Start and Novice line bowling in to ‘Moor’s gate’ finish: Daniel O’Sullivan (Cork) v Ethan Hughes (Armagh):
1.00pm, All-Ireland junior A final: Start Smart’s Bar finish ‘O’Connell green line’ John Creedon (Cork) v James Oliver (Armagh)
3.00pm: International Exhibition Score (TBC).
Sunday July 10, 10.00am Boy’s U18 final ‘Smart’s Bar to O’Connell green’. Patrick O’Donnell (Cork) v Anthony McVeigh (Armagh)
Sunday July 10
11.30am Girl’s U8 final ‘Novice line to Moore’s gate’, Rachel Kingston or Natalie Dempsey (Cork) v Caoimhe Rafferty (Armagh)
1.00pm Men’s Intermediate final; ‘Smart’s Bar to O’Connell green’, Patrick Flood (Cork) v Ethan Rafferty (Armagh)
3.00pm: Women’s senior final, Hannah Sexton (Cork) v Kelly Mallon (Armagh)
Presentations on the Road at the end of each day’s bowling.
With a senior championship performance for the ages, Seamus Sexton dethroned Arthur McDonagh at Baile Bhurine on Saturday. A pulsating encounter played for a combined €6,200, ebbed and flowed with quality bowling until the man from Nadd, with a six-shot sequence that confounded the experts, strode to one of his greatest victories. The reigning champion seemed to have quelled the Sexton challenge with two sensational shots, his ninth and tenth, to the ‘council park entrance’ when he came from hind bowl after eight to lead by seventy with a fine stretch of road in front of him. Sexton’s response was electric. A beautifully pitched eleventh cut the odds to twenty, but it was his twelfth, right out of his Suderhastede handbook of a month ago, that transformed this score. Delivered with inch-perfect precision it ran for over three-hundred metres and gave him a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. McDonagh fought it but Sexton was relentless as his fifteenth to ‘O’Riada’s’ put him a bowl clear. In a wonderful exhibition he raced to a lead of almost two bowls before matters were terminated. The senior championship shocks were far from finished.
At Templemartin on Sunday Michael Bohane defied the odds again with another barnstormer that this time put paid to the aspirations of Martin Coppinger. A stakeless event with all sorts of odds going on a Coppinger win was put in the melting pot by a poor start by the hot favourite. Bohane rose a bowl of odds after four and doggedly held his ground on the rising road to the ‘school-house cross’. Coppinger didn’t quite make it out the ‘stonefield bend’ when a chance presented itself to level and Bohane still held handy law heading for the ‘monument’. The shot that defined Bohane’s day was a tremendous effort to sight at the pub cross’. It maintained a big advantage and, although Coppinger reduced the margin to forty metres for the last shots, Bohane held on for a victory he will cherish for some time. A new name will be etched on the County senior championship cup when Seamus Sexton and Michael Bohane meet in a fortnight’s time at a venue to be announced.
A new name will appear on the Brendan Roche Cup after Hannah Sexton’s triumph at Ballincurrig on Sunday. The talented Timoleague lady continued her roller-coaster run with an emphatic victory over Veronica O’Mahony to claim the senior crown at her first attempt. Going for a €3,300 total, Veronica threw down the gauntlet with two huge opening shots, but Hannah rose to the challenge and had the contest level after three. A super fifth shot down to sight at the ‘big turn’ gave Hannah Sexton a commanding two-bowl lead which she consolidated with two more from the top drawer that had her at the end of the ‘long straight’ in a record-equalling seven throws. Veronica tried to stem the tide but there was no stopping Hannah on this occasion. A repeat performance this Sunday will surely put it up to Kelly Mallon.
Wednesday’s semi-final, also at Ballincurrig, was a cliff-hanger. Veronica O’Mahony showed sheer determination in a thrilling closing quarter to overhaul Maria Nagle’s one bowl lead and then take the initiative to eke out a last shot win from a score that looked to be slipping away from her at one stage. Going for a €2,060 total Rosscarbery challenger, Maria, blazed away to a bowl and forty metre lead after five to the ‘big turn’. Veronica made big inroads on the ’long straight’ before taking the lead at ‘Geary’s’. Maria kept pressure up, but Veronica defiantly held her new-found advantage to the line. In the last of the intermediate quarterfinals, played at Bauravilla on Tuesday evening, Hannah Cronin got the better of Gretta Cormican, one bowl, for €600. Hannah’s opening three gave her a decisive advantage that she held to the finish.
Plenty of inter-regional county round action mid-week ensured the junior B and veteran championships progressed. A large gathering at The Clubhouse on Wednesday witnessed an engaging junior B county semi between Carbery’s Darragh Dempsey and Mid Cork’s trailblazer, Ger D O’Driscoll. For an €8,600 total, Dempsey had his mettle tested to the hilt in this one but belied his youth with a very composed performance as he doggedly held the advantage he gained with a brilliant cast from ‘Clon cross’ to ‘Murray’s’. O’Driscoll, with a hard-won regional title and preliminary and quarterfinal wins under his belt showed his paces with four huge casts to within sight of the line but Dempsey hit a couple of his own in similar vein to hold his ground. On the other side of the junior B draw City’s Anthony Gould and West Cork’s Peter Murray clashed at Newcestown on Sunday morning. Murray scored a big win here eking out a last-shot victory over the former senior standard-bearer from the City. They played for a total of €6,000.
In another junior B quarterfinal at Jagoe’s on Friday, Denis O’Sullivan the South-West representative was impressive in his victory over North-East’s Patrick Hogan. Two bowls separated them at the end for a €2,800 total and O’Sullivan now meets Murray in the penultimate round at Caheragh. In junior veteran, East Cork’s Paul O’Brien took a last shot victory from West Cork’s Humphrey O’Leary in their quarterfinal clash at Jagoe’s Mills on Thursday. For a €2,000 total, O’Leary looked to be on course holding a lead of almost a bowl of odds, but a misplay with his second last cost him ground and O’Brien came at the death to snatch the victory. Carbery’s novice veteran representative, John O’Brien, won his preliminary round joust with North Cork’s Eugene O’Sullivan at Clondrohid on Thursday. For €820, O’Brien led from the start. Next up for the Ballydehob man is a quarter final set-to with the Mid Cork winner. In a novice veteran quarterfinal at Jagoe’s Mills, East Cork completed the double on the evening when Tony Murphy got the better of West Cork’s surprise winner, Con McCarthy.
Peter Murray won the West Cork junior B final at Durrus on Wednesday after a see-saw battle with John Young for a €5,000 total. Playing in past ‘Blair’s Cove, Murray made a blistering start going a bowl of odds up after four big opening shots. Young fought his way back and led facing the line, but Murray found the reserves to line a huge final effort and it won the day when Young’s game reply fell short. The was an upset of sizable proportions in the West Cork novice veteran final at Ballinacarriga where Drimoleague’s Con McCarthy defeated competition favourite Patsy O’Sullivan, Kealkil, in the last shot. A fine consistent showing from the Drimoleague man got him the winner’s prize. In novice B, Padraigh O’Sullivan is through to the regional final after a cracking semi at Bantry with James Hurley. For a €2,400 total, it went to the last shot before O’Sullivan prevailed by a few metres. He throws Brian O’Driscoll in the final at Drimoleague. Ardcahan’s Oisin Murray is West Cork U12 champion for 2022 after a hard-earned last shot win from Patrick Crowley at Bantry. In West Cork U16 at Durrus, a quarterfinal, Brian Horgan won from Jack Gibbons.
David Hegarty is South-West junior C champion, after winning the best of three with Conor O’Sullivan. Another good tussle ensued at Timoleague before Hegarty,s strong finish took him through. Laura Sexton won the South-West U16 final at Shannonvale from her sister Ellen and will be a strong contender now as the county rounds commence. On a weekend of finals in South-West, Donal Desmond won the regional novice veteran final from Denis O’Donovan at The Pike and Darren Harrington won the novice C decider at Grange defeating Garoid McCarthy, last shot, for €4,200. In the novice D semi-finals at Fisher’s Cross, Stephen Long won from Brian Harrington and Alan Murphy won from P J Hegarty. In tournament action at Ballygurteen, Noel O’Regan won the junior C/novice A final firing a huge last shot to deny Darren Santry who held the lead to that point. They played for a total of €3,240.