Includes a comprehensive report from the All-Irelands in Fenor
Cork’s battle-hardened champions surprisingly drew a blank in their quest for All-Ireland honours on Waterford’s Copper Coast at the weekend. An Ulster double for Brendan Rafferty and Frank Oliver and a shock Leinster victory for J P Clinton left the rebel county bereft as Fenor’s successful hosting concluded on Sunday evening. Sean Paul McDonagh, having blazed a trail against all comers in novice C and novice 1 was deemed a Cork banker but Clinton, a son of previous two-time winner, Peter, had shown plenty in previous outings to command respect. This was one occasion when McDonagh could not recover from a slack start. Clinton rose a bowl of odds after six throws and, when McDonagh found his groove with massive eighth and tenth shots, Clinton matched both and held his lead. The North-East man kept trying but the Louth maestro yielded nothing and the All-Ireland novice 1 cup, dedicated to the late, Jerry Desmond, goes back to the Clinton household where it last rested in 2018. The novice 1 final did not carry a stake.
Beal na Morrive’s Ruairi O’Connell has enjoyed an amazing novice 2 (D) campaign throughout 2022, but he too fell agonisingly short of All-Ireland glory when losing out to Ulster’s Francis Oliver in the second of Sunday’s deciders. Both players hit the ground running lining three huge openers. Oliver kept it up and rose a bowl of odds after six. O’Connell lined big eight and ninth shots and reduced the odds to a throw out but the greater consistency remined with the Ulster champion and he duly won the day by almost a bowl. The stake at issue amounted €11,200. Brendan Rafferty duly made it an Ulster double when he accounted for Boston’s Sean O’Mahony in the junior C final. The last of the day carried a substantial €13,200 with both finalists well-supported. Again, the man who made the better start won the day. Rafferty’s brilliant opening shot gave him the impetus to rise a bowl of odds after three, but this contest developed into a ferocious battle from there. O’Mahony lined a succession of lengthy deliveries and had it level by the eighth shot. The Boston player led then in the next exchange, but Rafferty wasn’t finished and regained the fore bowl with his tenth. Rafferty’s twelfth would prove decisive and it broke O’Mahony’s challenge. The Armagh man’s thirteenth put the icing on the cake as he took the championship by a bowl of odds.
Fenor and Killea bowling clubs combined to ensure a seamless running of the nine-score programme and their hard work was acknowledged by bowling authorities north and south at the presentation ceremony in Fenor on Sunday evening.
The stand-out fixture to emerge from Friday night’s semi-final draw in Mother McHughe’s popular establishment in Fenor was the junior C clash of champions North and South, a single-hand duel as London did not have representation at this level. A right set-to it proved to be on Saturday, but there was disappointment for the Cork and Lyre camp as David Hegarty’s splendid run came to an end at the hands of Brendan Rafferty. All the more so as he was the dominant force for much of the score leading at all points until the thirteenth shot. A majestic tenth throw of Hegarty’s looked to rise a bowl of odds but when his eleventh broke off the centre, he lost a lot of ground. A very poor twelfth left it level and from there, Rafferty, a brother of Ulster intermediate champion, Ethan, showed his true worth with a sublime finish as he scored the line in fifteen to record a big fore bowl win. They played for a total of €12,200. The second junior C semi concluded Saturday’s six-score schedule and here it was Boston’s Sean O’Mahony, a two-time novice 1 All-Ireland winner who came through against Leinster’s Gary Shevlin and Connaught’s ever faithful, David Hughes. The Mayo man contested well early on but fell in arrears and dropped off the pace by the three-quarter stage leaving O’Mahony and Shevlin to battle it out. In a tense closing segment the Boston player with Ballydehob links just held on.
Getting the Fenor hosting underway shortly after 9.30am on Saturday were the novice 1 semi-finals, both three-way contests. Sean Paul McDonagh was pitched in against North America’s Bantry native Kevin O’Riordan and London’s perennial performer, Danny O’Shea and it was the Boston based O’Riordan who had the better of it early on. McDonagh was lack-lustre as O’Riordan raced to a bowl lead after two while O’Shea also headed the Cork champion. The sixth and seventh shots brought a big turnaround as McDonagh reeled in the deficit before taking the lead when O’Riordan caught the right with his seventh. These exchanges left O’Shea trailing by two bowls on both and when McDonagh came again with a big eighth shot, he assumed a lead on both rivals that assured his place in Sunday’s decider. The stake amounted to €2,600 (McDonagh-O’Riordan). The second novice 1 semi was a hard-fought engagement between Leinster’s J P Clinton of Louth, Ulster, Paddy O’Neill, the novice 2 All-Ireland winner from 2020 and Mayo and Connaught’s Ger Kennedy. The Mayo man didn’t build on a splendid start and the contest soon developed into a mighty struggle between Clinton and O’Neill. It looked to be going O’Neill’s way as he led by almost bowl at the three-quarter stage but a combination of poor play and a big finish by the Louth youth saw the pendulum swing back Leinster’s way and it was Clinton who took it at the end by almost a bowl. The stakes at issue were €520 x 3 plus €860 (Leinster-Ulster). The novice 2 semi-finals back resulted in Frank Oliver and Ruairi O’Connell coming through. Ulster’s Oliver was too good for Mayo’s Matt Sheridan and Leinster’s Peter Deasy while Cork’s champion O’Connell easily saw off the challenge of North America’s hard-trying representative, Andy Shay of West Virginia.
James O’Donovan has rebounded in style from his Willie Whelton Cup final defeat at Grange. That loss to Martin Coppinger was quickly avenged on the following Sunday when the Bandon man scored a bowl of odds win over his Bantry rival in a Mick Barry Cup King of the Roads qualifier semi-final at Ballincurrig. In contrast to Grange, Coppinger was the punter’s favourite in the €4,440 total the contest went for, and an even contest ensued to the ‘long straight’ although O’Donovan shaded tips at most points. The deciding exchanges followed as Coppinger’s ninth crossed right and O’Donovan needed no second bidding to go the bones of a bowl clear. In the shots up to the ’sycamores’ O’Donovan consolidated his lead, and it was on to Barry Cup final play-off on Thursday against European champion, Seamus Sexton who on the previous Saturday had seen off the challenge of the games newest senior, Patrick Flood, one bowl, for a €10,900 total.
O’Donovan and Sexton drew a fine Thursday evening gathering to East Cork and it was the Bandon man who dominated from the off as a searing opening shot set him on his way. Sexton made a great effort to reduce early odds with a massive fifth, but O’Donovan followed that to hold his odds and then fired a massive sixth to increase his margin to a bowl. When O’Donovan hit the ‘big turn’ in a record equalling nine there was no way back for Sexton. Their contest carried an €11,000 total stake. James O’Donovan joins David Murphy, Michael Bohane, Thomas Mackle, Ralf Look (FKV, Germany) and Bas Senger (NKB The Netherlands) is the semi-final shake-up for the 2022 King of the Roads which will take place on September 23/24/25. Still in Ballincurrig, a Jim O’Driscoll Cup qualifier on Sunday evening last saw Tim Young and Brian Wilmot engage in an exciting sixteen shot set-to for a €1,940 stake. Little separated the tips at any point, and it was Wilmot who held the fore bowl as they faced the line. Young fired the score winner from blind sight, a whipping drive away around ‘O’Connell’s green’, that Wilmot, despite a brave attempt fell just short of. Bowling’s championship season for 2022 still has a bit to go. The ever-busy ladies committee are currently running of the inter-regional rounds of three championships, junior women, Girls U12 and U14, with scores generating plenty of interest. Fixtures secretary, Richie Fitzgerald, is currently putting in place the structures for the vintage (men over 60) championship. Scores are pencilled in for this week which is the last week of evening bowling. The return of the Joe O’Sullivan, Acorn Life Cup at Castletownbere will be the focus for bowing followers this weekend.