Bowling’s 2022 vintage (over 60’s) championship had an unavoidably late start, but that anomaly has proved a blessing in disguise for bowling followers as the game’s elder generation have delivered score after score of quality and excitement over the winter months and into the current New Year. Last Sunday’s rip-roaring section B set-to at Bantry may have surpassed the lot. Donal Harnedy and Micheal O’Callaghan showed warrior like attributes in an absorbing fourteen shot battle that was only decided by metres in the last pulsating exchanges. Gaeltacht’s O’Callaghan has lived and breathed bowling in recent years combining regular activity on the road with his role as a supremely effective administrator within the top echelons of Bol Chumann’s governing body. A winning run that dates back to pre-Covid, and includes winning the 2020 vintage grade outright, saw him on the cusp of repeating that triumph but in the opposing corner on Sunday was the man he defeated on the way to his previous success. Donal Harnedy too is an annual campaigner of long-standing, always hard beaten, but without the laurels his talents deserve as even Carbery regional championships eluded him for many decades. His current vintage challenge has seen him in the form of his life, eliminating a host of likely contenders often in inclement conditions. The biggest test came on Sunday when pitted against the man who was his conqueror at Togher Cross last year. Harnedy came prepared, carrying speed and no little accuracy in his bowling, and his mental toughness shone in that gripping closing quarter as he tenaciously hung to his slender lead when the slightest error would have been his undoing. Well-backed by a large phalanx of Carbery supporters, he was still the underdog in the €11,100 total stake. That he meant business was evident in a superb start. The defending champion’s opener was a fine effort but Harnedy beat it by thirty metres. The Carbery man blazed another big one extending his lead to seventy and he had a bowl cushion after an extraordinary third. Against a formidable opponent the likelihood of a comeback was very real, and the first indicator came when O’Callaghan fired a massive sixth to ‘Harrington’s’ bringing the odds well under the shot. A memorable finale unfolded as the Gaeltacht man closed in further when Harnedy’s seventh went left at ‘Casey’s’. It was down to twenty metres with three to go as O’Callaghan fought might and main to take what would be a crucial lead. Harnedy was defiant and beat big tips to stay ahead. Twenty- five metres separated them as they faced the deciding exchanges. O’Callaghan gave it everything firing a tremendous effort on the rise. It was a shot that left the Carbery man with a big tip to beat, but he held his nerve, splitting the sop with a fast accurate reply that rolled ten metres past the target. It won the day putting him through to the overall final where he will encounter Martin Connolly and Pat Scanlon, who are the respective section A and C winners. Ból Chumann’s James O’Driscoll congratulated both finalists on their endeavours and complimented the Bantry bowling club on their efficient hosting.
The Froe Road, Rosscarbery, proved an ideal venue for Bol Chumann’s Ladies Open Day on Saturday last. Following on from Dunderrow’s successful hosting in November, the latest in the series again demonstrated the strength of women’s bowling both at adult and under-age level. Fourteen teams of three completed the six-shot course and there was excitement aplenty as many, particularly in the U12, and U14 sector, expertly managed the tricky downward stretch that needed to be negotiated in the opening shots. A feature of the day was the attendance in large numbers of so many young bowl-players from regions North, North-East, Gaeltacht and Mid Cork. Former Bol Chumann chairperson, Susan Greene, Ladies’ committee chair, Caroline O’Leary, local committee representative, Emma Fitzpatrick, along with Bol Chumann’s James O’Driscoll and local club members saw after the organisational side of things and ensured a smooth-running event. The format that had a leading player from senior, intermediate, or junior ranks accompanied by two from the under-age sector in teams of three brought a competitive element to proceedings. Setting a big early target were the trio of Karen O’Callaghan, local star Maebh Cuinnea and Grace O’Sullivan whose 616.7 metre total seemed set for outright honours. It was late in the day when another from the host club, senior standard bearer, Maria Nagle teamed up with Macroom sisters, Shauna and Keeva O’Connell and it was this combination, all excelling at different points, who surpassed the early leaders by just under five metres finishing with 621. There was a tie for third place as Dunderrow winner, Meghan Collins this time partnered by Rosin O’Sullivan and Rosin Allen totalled 595 metres a figure that was matched by Emma Fitzpatrick accompanied by Leila and Bella Barry-Twohig. The individual long shots were also keenly contested. U12, winner was Aoife McCarthy, Skibbereen, U14 Ciara Lennon, Drinagh, and U16 Aoibhinn O’Connell, Inchigeelagh. The ladies committee have pencilled in April for their next hosting when the event will move to a different region.
Trials are currently taking place for selection on Cork U12 and U14 teams to travel to Newcastle, Co. Dublin, on March 4 for the inter-provincial under-age series. There was a big turn-out at Castletownkenneigh on Saturday last for the boy’s event. Trials have also taken place for inclusion on the girl’s team. Youths officer, David Murphy and Caroline O’Leary for the girls are in the process of finalising teams. Confirmed are the girls U12, and travelling to the capital are, Cait Young (West Cork), Chloe Hubbard (North Cork), Grace O’Sullivan (West), Caoimhe Hurley (West).
It was not an especially successful excursion northwards for Cork bowlers who travelled to support Bol Chumann’s Ard Mhaca’s youth initiative programme at the weekend. Eglish, Co. Tyrone, was the destination and, bar big performances from the Wilmot brother’s Bandon, the new All-Ireland venue did not prove a happy hunting ground for the visitors. First out on Saturday was Patrick Flood who did not replicate his fine recent Rosscarbery form in his joust with Armagh’s Bryan O’Reilly. Massively the favourite in the 3,000 stake, (Euro/Sterling), Flood made a slack start, his opener very short, and he did not recover. O’Reilly’s canny playing saw him ahead by a bowl after four and he comfortably held that margin as the Fermoy youth could not get going. Denis Wilmot won a good battle with Armagh’s rising star, Darragh Gribben, for an 11,000 total. Denis rose a bowl of odds early on, but Gribben brought it to the last shot which the Bandon man won. Brian Wilmot and Aaron Hughes lived up to its billing. The favourite in the 5,400 total, Brian went a shot down to the All-Ireland junior B champion, but recovered well with a huge cast mid-way through. Hughes looked to regain control with a ferocious second last but, vital to the outcome, Wilmot followed that monstrous effort and then prevailed in the last shot. Sunday was not a good day for the Cork contingent. Tim Young was off form in his loss to the long-time intermediate campaigner Paul O’Reilly. The Armagh man had almost two bowls to spare for a 15,000 total stake. Patrick Mackle defeated Jim Coffey by three bowls for 11,400 and in the weekend’s big surprise, Colm Rafferty defeated Gary Daly in the feature senior contest. For a 6,000 stake, Rafferty was consistent in a victory margin of almost a bowl of odds. In a final joust at Eglish, there was some consolation when Patrick Flood defeated Eugene McVeigh, last shot for 4,400. In club action at Ballinacurra, Upton, on Sunday, Kenneth Murphy defeated Noel Gould, last shot, for €7,600 and on the way back, Tom Reaney defeated Tony Maloney, last shot, for €4,000. In a doubles score at Beal naMorrive on Monday the O’Sullivan’s Daniel and Paul defeated David and Michael Desmond by a bowl of odds for €3,300. Ballygurteen bowling club have announced a mixed doubles mini tournament involving four ladies from senior ranks partnered by four junior graded men. It promises some lively action between the pairings who include Maria Nagle with Shane Shannon, Meghan Collins with Ger Connolly, Veronica O’Mahony with Noel O’Regan and Hannah Sexton with David Hegarty.
In championship action at the weekend, West Cork progressed novice C and D. At Togher Cross in novice C, Keith Jagoe defeated Alan O’Sullivan, one bowl, for €200 and, in the same grade, Adrian O’Neill returned to action with a first round win from Paul Walsh, for a €740 total. Here too in novice D, Keith Sheehan brought Andy McCarthy’s winning run to a halt with a last shot win. Andy was ahead in this one, but Keith rallied successfully. At Kealkil, in novice C, Cornelius O’Mahony defeated Con McCarthy, two bowls, for €1,000 and in the D grade, Tim O’Sullivan, Durrus, overcame Dunmanway’s Cairbre O’Donovan after a good score. At Drinagh on Saturday in the novice D championship, Jerry Murray, Ardcahan, came from a bowl down to defeat Peter Collins, Edencurra. Mid Cork had a good novice D championship contest at Newcestown on Saturday. Ger O’Leary overcame Darragh Looney in the last shot, for €900. In North Cork at Kilcorney on Bank Holiday Monday morning, two novice D championship scores went ahead. In the first of these Damien McMahon defeated Ger Cullinane for a €1,300 total while Aaron Doherty came good in his tussle with Johnny O’Driscoll for a €900 stake.
The bowling world mourned the passing of Joe Bowen, White’s Cross, whose departure on January 30 evoked memories of some of the game’s greatest occasions. Joe was founder member of Whitechurch club and its attraction as a road to test the skills of bowling’s greatest saw it quickly established itself as a leading venue for All-Ireland and international events. Under the guidance of Joe, his sons Noel and Stephen, daughter in law Linda, and great friend, Noel Buckley, the club went from strength hosting All-Ireland finals in 1985/86/87 and again 2013/2014. The Paddy Whiskey World Road Bowling Championships of 1985 and 1987 were elaborate promotions for Brendan Roche and his team then at the helm in Bol Chumann.
Whitechurch was the chosen venue for the events which drew enormous crowds to Cork’s northside. Bill Daly emerged the winner on both occasions. At organisational level, Joe Bowen was an active presence at Whitechurch whether its was a national or international staging or an under-age City championship first round contest. Former youths’ officer, Dan McCarthy, praised his facility to accommodate any number of youths inter-regional championships scores when championship deadlines were close at hand. For those of us who sought some detail on any of the huge number of scores at the leading City venue, Joe was a warm, witty and knowledgeable chronicler who spared nobody and yet never spoke with the slightest hint of malice. A generous man whose sponsorship of and donations to many events at the lower end of the spectrum often went unnoticed, Joe was held in high esteem by all with whom he interacted on the bowling scene. May he Rest in Peace.
Pat O’Rourke, Rylane, rarely missed a score of any importance north or south. His passing on Thursday last left a void in North Cork bowling and all championship scores within the region on Saturday and Sunday were cancelled as a mark of respect. The strong bowling tradition within the O’Rourke family ensured many good days for Pat. His late brother Denis was a leading junior A standard bearer for many years and, with his nephew, John, (junior and intermediate), and niece, Catriona, (senior), All-Ireland champions in the current millennium, the tradition is preserved for another generation. Pat was an ever-present and it was a source of pride for him to witness his grand-niece, Chloe Hubbard, enjoy championship success in the U12 and U14 grades right at the very end of 2022. Pat’s late wife, Noreen, hailed from Templemartin, one of the Murphy bowling clan, who have been part and parcel of so many high-profile events over the past decades. Sympathies are extended to the O’Rourke and Murphy families and extended families.
Photos courtesy of Susan & Dan McCarthy