Includes a comprehensive report from the All Ireland Finals at Ballincurrig along with county and regional score updates
Kelly Mallon reigns supreme, a tenth All-Ireland senior championship success achieved with economy of effort in the baking heat of Ballincurrig on Sunday afternoon puts her now on a pedestal with her county compatriot, Michael Toal, who has amassed a similar total from his topflight participation. Hannah Sexton gave her all on a difficult day for her. A splendid county champion in her debut year, All-Ireland final day at this level with its attendant pressure and expectation was a new experience for the Timoleague lady and, even in defeat, she will gain plenty from the occasion as her sporting career continues on an upward trajectory. She was not at the pitch of her county final success of the previous Sunday, and it showed in the early stages as the Ulster champion, putting her previous day’s defeat on the football field firmly behind her, raced to a lead of almost a bowl of odds in six and seven to the ‘big turn’. Mallon turned the screw with a massive ninth on the ‘long straight’, a shot Sexton gamely followed, but the bowl of odds was up. As the slow-moving contest wound its way to ‘Geary’s green’ it was the Armagh lady who was getting the better runs and with Sexton a shade unlucky with her sixteenth, the margin stretched to almost two bowls. That was enough for a celebratory hoist in the air for bowling greatest female talent. Her father Chris Mallon, chair Bol Chumann Ard Mhacha, paid fulsome tribute to his daughter’s successes, praising her dedication and commitment to her sporting interests. He recalled her first visit to the All-Ireland series, at Ballincurrig’s previous hosting in 2003, when, as a thirteen-year-old, she lost out to Helen Whyte in the U18 final and mentioned the encouragement given by then Bol Chumann, chair, Susan Greene, to return and win the next time. Kelly Mallon returned with grace and power and the intervening years has seen her dominate the women’s bowling game to an unprecedented level. Although the bane of many a Cork champion’s All-Ireland aspirations, Kelly’s talent and sportsmanship are warmly appreciated by the bowling fraternity in the rebel county.
Patrick Flood is All-Ireland intermediate champion for 2022. Another making his debut in the grade, the Fermoy youth has vanquished all before him in a tremendous campaign that culminated in national honours on Sunday last with a big bowl of odds victory over Ulster champion, Ethan Rafferty. For combined stakes of €24,200 and £4,000, Flood’s huge opener gave him big law, but it was short-lived. Rafferty hit the green at ‘Geary’s’ with two huge casts to take a thirty-metre lead and then beat a big fourth of Flood’s as they faced the no-play lines. The next exchanges would define the score. Flood missed those lines handing the Ulster champion a golden opportunity. Unfortunately for the orange camp, Rafferty missed as well, and the contest went level to ‘O’Riordan’s’. Flood took charge again on the ‘long straight’ and a tightly cut tenth gave him the opportunity to rise valuable odds at the ‘big turn’. The Cork champion took his chance going clear sight, but it was his eleventh on the rise that showed him at his best. Delivered with power and precision, his twelfth then cannoned up towards the ‘sycamores’ rising a big bowl of odds. Rafferty tried but couldn’t get close and, when Flood opened the last bend with his fifteenth cast, the famed Crowley-O’Carroll Cup was heading for Fermoy.
Rachel Kingston simply wore her game Armagh rival down in a thrilling comeback U18 win as she annexed All-Ireland glory to add to her European Championship Gold Medal. As the day warmed up Caoimhe Rafferty, carrying the Ulster banner, started in splendid style rising the bones of a bowl of odds with five big openers. Rachel’s third, off the play, had her in trouble as Caoimhe continued to hold sway and she was just fifteen metres short of a bowl of odds approaching the half-way point at ‘Leahy’s’. The contest reached fever pitch as Rafferty beat a huge tenth of Kingston’s to still hold a sixty-metre lead. The European Champion though was finding her groove and fired a splendid eleventh to take her first lead. Rachel Kingston reserved her best form for the closing stages of this decider and, confounding the pundits, consolidated her newfound ascendancy with fast accurate bowling. A magnificent double was achieved with a bowl of odds victory much to the delight of her Dunmanway and Togher Cross support.
Paddy O’Donnell from Mitchelstown got Sunday off to a good start for the North-East division when winning the U18 crown from Ulster’s Anthony McVeigh. Powerfully strong and eligible for the grade again next year, O’Donnell set his stall out early firing a magnificent third shot to the ‘green’ before rising a full bowl of odds after four. McVeigh showed his paces then with four brilliant bowls to knock the odds to thirty metres and with O’Donnell not throwing with his earlier fluency, a level score beckoned as they headed to the ’big turn’. Unfortunately for the Ulster champion from Tyrone, McVeigh undid his good work with a poor effort at the top of the ‘long straight’ and suddenly O’Donnell was away to a bowl of odds lead again. Paddy O’Donnell doubled his lead over the closing stages for a very emphatic win.
On a scorching Saturday, John Creedon brought the junior A All-Ireland to Ballyvourney. A performance similar to his County final success against Tim McDonagh was enough to quell the game challenge of Ulster champion, James Oliver, in a stakeless score that never really sparkled. The punters got it right this time as Creedon justified his overwhelming favouritism although Oliver’s final act of saving the bowl of odds put a dent in some of the winnings. There was early drama when the Cork champion’s opening shot cracked right giving his northern rival an early fifty metre lead. Oliver did not make the most of his advantage and a scattered third had it almost level. He still led after four when, Creedon, with almost an exact replica of his incredible effort against McDonagh, lit the road with a ferocious fifth that gave him a lead he didn’t relinquish. Oliver’s immediate response was good enough, but a very wayward sixth which missed the no-play line had him all sorts of trouble. A bowl up after eight, Creedon was pegged back in the shots to the ‘big turn’ having been a shade unlucky with his eleventh. Oliver duly made it out in twelve, but any hopes of a grandstand finish were banished when Creedon’s superior power on the rise restored his bowl of odds lead at ‘Din Tough’s’. The Tullysaran man battled with some success but never enough to deny John Creedon a deserved 2022 Junior A All-Ireland title.
A candidate for contest of the weekend was the U14 shoot-out between Ulster’s Ethan Hughes and Cork’s Daniel O’Sullivan. Although victory eventually went to the Ulster champion, O’Sullivan certainly lost no caste in this defeat having fought a terrific battle right to the line. The Ardcahan boy beat a massive opener from Hughes but lost huge ground with a second that caught the right too soon. A very impressive performer since his U12 title win a few years back, Hughes was consistency personified in the bowling down the ‘short straight’ and around the double bends and threatened to overwhelm O’Sullivan as he raced to a bowl and thirty metre lead. In a remarkable fightback, O’Sullivan knocked the bowl with a ferocious ninth and then beat a monstrous tenth from Hughes to keep the pressure up. Excitement mounted as O’Sullivan, with two more of the highest order cut the odds to twenty-five metres as they hit ‘Geary’s green’. Hughes reacted well with a big effort through the green. It gave him cushion enough to hold off O’Sullivan’s continuing charge and take the Tony Murray Cup northwards for the first time since 2016.
It was an All-Ireland weekend to savour in Ballincurrig. Regional personnel from the East Cork-West Waterford division had everything in ship-shape and with Seamus O’Tuama as director of operations this was only to be expected. The northern bowling fraternity travelled in their hundreds bringing gaiety and colour as well of course as their undoubted bowling expertise to a wonderful occasion. Bol Chumann’s James O’Driscoll, deputising for Chairman, Michael Brennan, thanked all who contributed to the weekend’s success paying particular tribute to the markers, sign-holders, road marshals and to the local community too whose support and forbearance was warmly appreciated.
Ballincurrig aside, it was another busy mid-week as the next round of championships race to completion ahead of the Ulster All-Ireland series on August Bank Holiday weekend. The county senior championship final has been fixed for Lyre on this Sunday afternoon. Michael Bohane and Seamus Sexton throw off at 2.00pm. The ladies’ intermediate semi-finals, Chloe O’Halloran v Juliette Murphy at Baile Mhuirne on July 11 and Denise Murphy v Hannah Cronin at Castletownkenneigh will be played this week. The junior B county final is fixed for Shannonvale or Togher Cross depending on the outcome of the Caheragh semi-final involving Peter Murray (West) v Denis O’Sullivan (South West). Carbery’s Darragh Dempsey is in the decider.
In junior veteran, City’s Noel Gould is in the final by virtue of his semi-final victory over Andrew O’Leary (North East) at Ballinacurra, Upton on Friday. This contest became a runaway for the City man who was two bowls clear after five and three up by the Brinny G.A.A pitch. They played for a total of €4,800. Also, in junior veteran mid-week at Terelton, North Cork’s Mark Burke made a big statement with a fore bowl victory over John Shorten, the Mid Cork representative who was the outright champion in 2019. It was a fiercely competitive engagement at the Gaeltacht venue with Burke finally making a break at the ‘garage’ going a bowl of odds up. Shorten put in a big finish but Burke matched him all the way and now a county semi-final awaits at Grenagh against Paul O’Brien (East Cork). The novice veteran is also being played out to a county final. Carbery’s John O’Brien is in the quarterfinal awaiting the Mid Cork winner. East Cork’s Tony Murphy will play the winner in the semi-final. Gaeltacht’s Tim Kelleher won his quarterfinal from North-East’s Willie Cronin at Beal na Morrive and will play the winner of City v South-West in the semi.
The girls’ U18 final at Lyre was played out on Thursday evening and it was European Gold Medal winner, Rachel Kingston who prevailed in the last shot from Carbery’s Natalie Dempsey. In a score of mixed bowling and missed chances, Rachel just edged a tight finish. Boy’s U16 and U12 and girls U16 have national finals in Armagh and there is huge urgency in getting these championships to completion. In U16, South-West’s Cillian Twohig is in the semi-final by virtue of his quarterfinal win over North-East’s John O’Donoghue at Ballinacurra, Upton. In a preliminary round at Gaeltacht venue, Baile Mhuirne, North Cork’s Shane Dennehy defeated City’s Jack O’Leary. In U12, City representative, Myles Connors won from North Cork’s Jayden Crowley at Baile Mhuirne.
In the South-West division, Cillian Twohig, 2020 All-Ireland U14 winner has made a successful step-up taking the 2022 U16 regional title with a hard-earned win over David O’Sullivan at Fisher’s Cross.
In Mid-Cork novice C, at Templemartin, Derrick Murphy defeated Shane Desmond, last shot. In a Mid novice C semi-final at Castletownkenneigh Dermot Crowley and Dylan Galvin took issue for a €2,200 total stake. Waterfall man, Crowley hit peak form here rising a two-bowl lead by half-way before eventually winning by one. In another novice C contest at Jagoe’s Mills, Dan O’Donovan won from Declan O’Donovan. In novice veteran, David Walsh defeated P J McCarthy at Jagoe’s.
In the West Cork division, Brian Horgan and Sean Cronin meet in the U16 final. Cronin defeated Eoin Hurley in his semi-final at Ballinacarriga while Brian won his semi at Ardcahan on Tuesday just getting the better of Brian O’Sullivan in the last shot. Noel O’Regan defeated Sean O’Regan last shot in the junior C semi-final at Durrus and will play Kevin Cotter in the final at Togher Cross.