Festival and championship scores over the past week have taken place under a cloud of sadness. The untimely passing of James Nagle cast a pall over events north and south and, such was the Rosscarbery man’s popularity in bowling circles, that scarcely a follower of the sport wasn’t touched by his loss. Bol Fada festival committee held a minute’s silence in memory of James prior to the start of the feature event, the Joe McVeigh Cup, staged on the Markethill road, near Tassagh on Sunday afternoon last.
All-Ireland champion, Thomas Mackle, choose the occasion to put one over on his erstwhile rival, Arthur McDonagh, and regain the prestigious cup which he had won four times previously. In doing so he delivered a final hammer-blow to the travelling Cork contingent who, by the end of the weekend, had been on the receiving end of a seven-two rout from the nine-score Bol Fada programme. In complete contrast to his February performance in the Noel Phair Cup at Shannonvale against the same opponent, this was Mackle at his consistent best. He got off to a flier rising a bowl of odds with three big opening shots and looked set to dominate. McDonagh had other ideas and fought back with two tremendous shots that cut into Mackle’s lead. The cup holder fired another big one on the rise to the ‘piggeries’ to forge in front for the first time. Following a series of excellent exchanges, McDonagh clung to a ten-metre lead beyond half-way at the ‘creamery lane’. Mackle’s persistence paid when he regained the fore bowl approaching ‘McCann’s corner’ and it was here the crucial turning point came when McDonagh played wide and missed the bend. Mackle sailed through with a brilliant effort. The upshot of these exchanges was a bowl of odds difference in favour of the northerner and, when he fired a sublime cast to ‘McKee’s wall’ he consolidated his lead in spectacular fashion. McDonagh tried to the end but to no avail and Thomas Mackle’s triumph brought the curtain down on a weekend to forget for the visitors. Their contest carried €40,200 plus 6,000 sterling.
Any hopes that Michael Bohane’s win of the previous evening might herald a change in Cork’s fortunes were banished when an off-form Patrick Flood went under to Armagh’s Colm Rafferty in Sunday’s opening score. For a 22,000 total, both were off the play with their opening shots as chances went a begging. Rafferty settled and rose a bowl of odds after six. Flood fired a big shot on the rise to bring the margin under the bowl, but despite a game effort could not get close enough to threaten Rafferty. Eighty metres separated them for the last shots, and it was cushion enough for the fifth northern win of the weekend. There was no joy either for City junior A Michael O’Donoghue in his contest with up-and-coming Armagh star, Aaron Hughes. Going for 7,600 (Euro/sterling) the penultimate score of the weekend was well contested at the outset with O’Donoghue holding a narrow lead at ‘McCann’s’. Hughes fired a huge cast to the ‘creamery lane’ to rise a bowl of odds and that effectively was the turning point. Hughes won by the bowl.
The weekend started with a Cork win. Getting proceedings underway in a mixed doubles at Tassagh on Good Friday, U14 and U16 county champions, Daniel O’Sullivan and Laura Sexton had a wonderful tussle with Armagh’s All-Ireland champions, Ethan Hughes and Lily O’Rourke. The Armagh duo held an eighty-metre advantage after five but a big one from Laura Sexton gave Cork the lead after eight. O’Sullivan excelled too in the closing stages as the Cork partnership gamely held on for a five-metre victory. It was as good as it got for the visitors on Good Friday. Eugene McVeigh, who shone at the ‘Doubtcha Boy’ festival at Skibbereen in March, brought his best game again to a big money shoot-out with Tommy O’Sullivan. For a 26,500 total (Euro/sterling) McVeigh took advantage of a poor opener by O’Sullivan to forge into an eighty-metre lead right at the outset. O’Sullivan lined an impeccable seventh, but McVeigh beat a big tip to hold the front. The bowling was good from both men before McVeigh made the decisive play with a massive thirteenth which put him a bowl of odds up. It would be his winning margin. In the last of Good Friday’s scores, another mixed doubles, the northern pairing of Ronan McClelland and Dervla Toal-Mallon took on Cork’s Meghan Collins and Ger Connolly for a 12,400 total. McClelland/Toal-Mallon rose a bowl after three and soon doubled their odds. Collins/Connolly could make no inroads and conceded before the finish. Matters didn’t improve for the visitors on the resumption on Saturday when Pete Carr and Darragh Dempsey took issue for a 26,400. Carr choose the occasion to deliver the performance of a lifetime overwhelming his youthful Cork opponent almost from the off. He was a shot if front at the point known as Twynam’s corner and had doubled his lead by the ‘piggeries’. Dempsey tried but, a bit below his best, he had no chance of catching his northern rival on home territory. Another big stake double followed when Armagh’s dual All-Ireland winners from Fenor, Brendan Rafferty and Frank Oliver took on Cork’s South-West/Gaeltacht pairing of Darren Kelly and Shane Shannon for 28,000. And it was a fourth reverse on the trot for the Cork camp when they lost a commanding lead with five to go. Rafferty and Oliver fired two sensational shots to ‘O’Hanlon’s lane’ and this coupled with a Cork misplay saw the lead change hands at a crucial point. Armagh won by the fore bowl. It took a sterling performance from Michael Bohane in the last of Saturday’s fixtures to halt the run of losses. Playing Armagh senior, Bryan O’Reilly who had himself inflicted some angst on Cork supporters when defeating Patrick Flood at Eglish earlier in the year, Bohane was consistent from the off. Playing with speed and accurate enough he pulled away from his northern rival and rose a bowl of odds at ‘McCann corner’. O’Reilly knocked it briefly, but Bohane stayed the course and won by the shot. The stake money amounted to 4,500, modest in comparison to what had preceded it.
The Lowney’s Jewellers sponsored women’s senior championship for 2023 got underway at Newcestown on Thursday when the returning Geraldine Daly-Curtin contested with last year’s runner-up Veronica O’Mahony. Bweeng contender, Veronica, so impressive in a mixed doubles win at Ballygurteen with Noel O’Regan, got off to a flier rising a bowl of odds at ‘O’Brien’s cross’ as they played away from the village. Geraldine Curtin brought all her experience to bear in this one and extricated herself from a sticky situation with a brilliant sequence from here. She led at ‘Kingston’s’ and then fired a four-shot winning salvo from ‘Canty’s lane’ to take the winner’s point from an exciting group A encounter. Both have scores to come against Hannah Sexton and Emma Fitzpatrick. In intermediate ladies, two scores at The Clubhouse had significant results. In a tight group A clash on Wednesday, Julianne Hayes snatched the winning point from Helen Whyte. In a close affair with a few chances going a begging, Helen had handy metres with three to go but a wayward second last cost her the lead. In a game response the Reenascreena lady hit a big last shot only for her Drinagh rival to fire one of best of the day and beat a formidable mark. At Drinagh on Sunday morning Hannah Cronin defeated Helen in the last of the group A scores. An even contest turned when Togher Cross contender, Hannah, fired an exceptional shot from blind sight at the ‘church’ to the ‘rectory gates’. These results mean elimination for Helen and quarterfinal places for Julianne and Hannah. In group C, Louise Collins ensured qualification for the quarterfinal knock-out rounds with a two-bowl win over Gretta Cormican. For a €900 total the Celtic Ross Hall of Fame recipient gave it a good go and might have extended a narrow early lead with a better third. Louise with a win over European U18 champion, Rachel Kingston under her belt, surged in front and rose a bowl at ‘O’Brien’s corner’. Playing strong she doubled her lead by ‘Murray’s’. Gretta has a score to come at Bauravilla against Rachel.
Regional championships continue. A big one in Mid Cork on Thursday evening was the junior B clash of Dan O’Halloran and Kenneth Murphy at Beal na mBlath. Veteran campaigner, Dan, ensured the family will be doubly represented in the semi-final draw when scoring a two-bowl victory over his Kinsale rival. His son Bryan is already through to the last four as is Noel O’Donovan where they will be joined by the winner of Killian O’Sullivan v John Butler. In Mid novice D at Dunderrow on Monday, Derrick Murphy defeated Chris Hayes by two bowls. The South-West championship progressed with a novice D championship score at Lyre. Here Ger Shanahan advanced with a win over James Fitzpatrick. At Shannonvale, Eric Harrington defeated Danny O’Brien, last shot, for €1,100. In the novice veteran championship at Fisher’s Cross, Seamus White defeated Brendan O’Sullivan and Timmie Hennessy got the better of Pat Joe Sheehy. In West Cork an exciting novice D contest at The Clubhouse saw Cian Young score a ten-metre win from an unlucky Ray Jennings. In a score in which the lead changed on numerous occasions, Jennings led for the final exchanges only for Young’s piledriver to prove decisive. Back the road at The Clubhouse in novice veteran, Damien Healy won from Connie O’Driscoll. In West Cork U16 at Derrinasafa, Daithi Galvin won from Josh O’Farrell and Shane Hurley won from Michael Galvin. Association Secretary, Michéal O’Callaghan is on the winning trail again after getting over a tough hurdle in his opening score in the Gaeltacht novice veteran championship. His shoot-out with Tomas O’Murchu at Ballyvourney on Saturday was well contested with O’Callaghan’s strong finish deciding it. In the City division at Templemichael, Michael Murphy defeated Cian Boyle by a bowl of odds. In East Cork Andrew O’Leary and Mick Wall had a cracking score at Ballincurrig. For a €2,780 total, O’Leary dominated to the ‘big turn’ before Wall staged a late rally. Wall completed his comeback with a big last shot win. In North Cork at Kilcorney on Monday, in the novice D championship, Alex Roche defeated Pat Fitzgibbon in the last shot of a good score that carried a €600 total stake. In the same grade at Ballinagree on Tuesday, Gary Murphy defeated T J Willis, by a bowl for €500 and Shane Corkery defeated Aaron Doherty. In a return score at Ballinagree, John MacSullivan won from Liam McCarthy for a €920 stake.
In club action, Conor Creedon defeated Kenneth Murphy at Lyre on Saturday. Despite an excellent effort by Murphy at the ‘tunnel’ where he led by twenty metres, it was Creedon who regained a significant advantage again in the shots to ‘Crowley’s corner’ and through the ‘crossover’. The Ballyvourney man gave Murphy a chance when he misdirected at the ‘rose bed’ three from home, but the opportunity wasn’t taken and Creedon took the spoils with a big last shot. They played for a total of €3,200. Two of the game’s elder statesmen enjoined in battle in the return here. Jerry Connolly and Gene O’Callaghan have been around the block but can still find the gears for a competitive contest. For a €900 stake that is how it transpired. Connolly emerged the winner. At Lyre on Easter Monday, Gaeltacht’s Micheal Desmond defeated his county final conqueror John Anthony Murphy, in the last shot of a fiercely contested encounter for a €4,400 total stake. At Derrinasafa, Carbery’s John Cahalane, finished strongly in overturning an early deficit to Diarmuid Hurley and going on the win their duel by almost a bowl of odds. They played for a €6,680 total.