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Bowling Report - Week ending 10th March


Gary Daly’s twelve shot tour-de-force from the lower start line to Ballyhilty corner represented a five-star showing from the Fermoy man as the curtain came down on a hectic weekend’s action on The Marsh Road. The West Cork Distillers sponsored ‘Dowtcha Boy’ festival brought crowds in their hundreds to the Carbery venue on Saturday and Sunday last and, while a few on the seven-score programme were won by wide margins many more ended in a welter of excitement as comeback charges yielded victories by the slimmest of margins. The Sunday scores prior to Daly’s clash with Martin Coppinger were filled with last-shot drama but such was the North-East man’s mastery on the road’s most difficult stretches that he had built a commanding lead on his Bantry rival long before the finish line was in sight. After Coppinger made a bright start with a bullet-like opener, Daly upped the gears with astonishing third and fourth shots that brought him up to the ‘veterinary entrance’. Coppinger’s tendency to drag shots to the right militated against him from the third throw onwards and he fell a bowl adrift after another big one from Daly. Typical of Daly’s form was his following of a tremendous ninth shot of Coppinger’s when the slightest error might have led to a level score. There was no stopping the rangy Fermoy man even after a slightly wayward tenth. He compensated in full with a truly exceptional twelfth to Ballyhilty corner and, with Coppinger now over two down after another to the ‘avenue gate’, matters were terminated with the odds deemed insurmountable with just three shots remaining. The stake money at issue amounted to €15,000.

The weekend’s second senior contest opened Sunday’s programme and, although at times littered with mistakes from both players, was an extraordinarily exciting duel between two of the grade’s newest incumbents. Patrick Flood and Brian Wilmot, intermediate champions of ’23 and ’24 respectively, hadn’t met since Wilmot defeated the Fermoy man in the Rosscarbery Paddy Barry Cup final early last year and have had contrasting fortunes since then. Wilmot, Player of the Year, was on a crest of a wave for most of 2023 while, after a bright start, Flood has found the going tough in upper echelons. Nevertheless, it was the Fermoy man who was the punters favourite in the €8,400 total stake and seemed to justify that confidence with a big opening shot. Things were downhill for him in the next segment as poor fourth and fifth shots resulted in Wilmot rising a big bowl of odds. Wilmot’s excellent fourth was the catalyst and he rose more odds with a good sixth. The shots from ‘Curragh Hill’ to the ‘steps’ produced an extraordinary turnaround as poor eighth and ninth shots form Wilmot and a super effort from Flood turned the score on its head. Flood was almost a bowl clear at ‘the steps’, but lost ground in the shots to ‘Ballyhilty’ when not making full sight with his fourteenth. Wilmot’s brilliant drive from the cross put him back in front, but Flood’s, last do or die last effort won the day in spectacular style.


In between on Sunday was a junior B contest between long-time adversaries, Donie Harnedy, Skibb, and Johnny O’Driscoll, Clon. A whopping €20,000 was the combined total the contest went for, and it was shot for shot for the opening five on the downward route. Two explosive efforts from O’Driscoll rose a bowl and sixty metres and it was looking good for the Clon camp as the score moved beyond half-way. Harnedy had other ideas and a splendid ninth cut into O’Driscoll’s lead. A sensational turnaround came about after the next exchange when another Harnedy piledriver was followed by an O’Driscoll error and now the Skibb man was in the ascendancy. There was no let-up as O’Driscoll regained the lead with two to go only for Harnedy to go in front for the last shots. The Skibb man won that vital exchange to take the spoils from a rip-roaring encounter.


The much-changed fixture list still produced a good line-up and the opening score on Saturday involving intermediate graded, Eamonn Bowen and Carbery’s junior A champion, David Shannon held its own intrigue. The lower ranked Shannon was the punter’s favourite and duly won a contest that largely hinged on a couple of mid-score mistakes by early leader Bowen. For a €10,900 total, Bowen fired lively opening shots and held a handy seventy metre lead after two. A better third might have extended his advantage, but he continued to hold sway in the shots to the ‘council gates’. Shannon fired a powerful sixth up the rise and was a shade unlucky with a well-drilled seventh across to ‘Curragh hill’. Bowen was still in front and should have stayed in the ascendancy, but a seemingly well-played eighth whipped right off the play handing his Skibb rival a first-time lead. It was Bowen’s next that undid his challenge firing well off the play and Shannon lost no time in putting daylight between them. The Skibb man was close to a bowl clear at ‘the steps’ and held that odds to ‘Ballyhilty’. Bowen fired a big last shot and saved the bowl of odds. On the downward stretch, Dunmanway men, Alan Brickley and Brian Horgan took on the Bauravilla Crowley brothers Colm and Gavin for a €10,200 total. The exchanges to the half-way point had the Brickely/Horgan pairing in front at all points. Beyond the ‘steps’ after seven shots they held a seventy-metre lead but a couple of misplays on the rise saw the margin cut to ten. The Crowley’s kept their challenge up and were rewarded with the lead at the ‘council gates’ but unfortunately for the Carbery men it was short lived. Throwing down for the Skibb sign, Gavin Crowley did not get a good run and the ascendancy returned to the Dunmanway men. The Crowley’s whittled a sixty-metre deficit down but Brickley/Horgan held on for the win.

The north-south clash of the weekend involved Cork’s Tommy O’Sullivan and Tyrone’s Eugene McVeigh. For a €9,000 total, this was an impressive display by O’Sullivan who’s massive fourth throw had him up by the ‘council gates’. This put him a shot ahead of the hard-trying McVeigh and the going did not get easier for the Eglish man who was two adrift at the ‘steps’. McVeigh did succeed in halving the odds in the shots to ‘Thornhill cross’ but there was no denying O’Sullivan a bowl of odds victory.


Darragh Dempsey closed out Saturday’s programme with a hard-earned victory over Ballyclough’s Michael Murphy. The hottest of favourites in the €5,800 total stake, the Carbery man showed what he is capable of with an explosive fifth shot that catapulted him to a lead closing on two bowls of odds. His next three were not his best and Murphy closed to within sixty metres. What followed was a brilliant sequence from both players as Murphy strove might and main to level it only for Dempsey to steadfastly hold ground beating big tips by a considerable distance. The upshot was a deserved last shot victory for the home player. Classes for Autism at St. Patrick’s National School, Skibbereen were the big beneficiaries from a successful weekend on The Marsh Road.

Aside from the Marsh Road there was tournament action at Beal na mBlath where Dylan Galvin, Sean Nyhan and Stephen Spillane had a novice 2 three-way joust. For a €1,650 total, it was Galvin from a good distance back with three to go who came good with a tremendous last throw to win the day with his only fore bowl of the score. He joins Barry Coughlan and the winner of another three-way in the overall decider. At Beal na Morrive, Martin McSweeney defeated Gerry Hubbard, last shot, for €700. At Curraheen, Michael Gould defeated Paul Butler, last shot, for €1,600 and, in a return, old rivals Declan O’Leary and Stephen Bowen went head to head with O’Leary taking the verdict in the last shot also for €2,600.

In championship action there was a turn-up in the Gaeltacht’s novice veteran grade when last year’s winner Michéal O’Céallachain went out to Clondorhid’s Niall Murphy for an €1,100 total. Back here, Tony Healy defeated Paudie Murphy. In Gaeltacht U18 Ian O’Donoghue defeated Liam Twomey. In West Cork championships, novice D at Inch, Chris Bowles defeated Andy McCarthy and in C, here, Johnny Kelly defeated Conor O’Donovan, last shot, for €1,000. There was a turn-up in U18 at Ballinacarriga when Eoin Hurley of Kilronan defeated Brian Horgan. A cracking score hinged on Hurley’s big cast to sight at ‘Hehir’s’. At The Clubhouse in U14 boys Brian Murphy won from Conor Lennon and in the same grade at Durrus, Dylan Daly won from Kevin Hickey. In U18 here, Stephen Hourihane won from Kilcrohane’s Luke McCarthy. In North Cork novice D at Bweeng, Brendan Cotter defeated Pat Joe Murphy and, in a return here, Brendan Cotter defeated Paul Walsh, last shot, for €400. At Ballinagree in D, Luke Philpott defeated Ross Lynch, for €600 and in a return, Barry Murphy defeated Jim Martin, last shot, for €400. At Beal na Morrive, Paul Walsh defeated Kieran Buckley. In South-West championship action at The Pike, novice C, Jason Harrington defeated Jack O’Driscoll, by a bowl, for €440. In Mid Cork novice D, Shane Healy defeated Cathal Collins, last shot, at Dunderrow for €700 and, in a return, Thomas Maloney defeated Stephen Murphy, last shot, for €900.

In the City junior A championship at Templemichael, Cian Boyle defeated Craig Moynahin by two bowls and here too in U18, Anthony Crowley defeated Jack O’Leary, also by two. In other scores at Templemichael, Tom Connolly defeated Jeremy Downey, by a bowl, for €1,000 and James O’Sullivan defeated Shane Lotty by a bowl for the same stake.


Youth’s Officer, David Murphy, announced the new date for the youths’ inter-provincial team play-offs at Newcastle, Co. Dublin. Deferred on March 2 due to weather conditions in the capital, the competitions for boys and girls in the U12/U14 age bracket will now take place on Saturday March 23rd. An 11.00am throw-off will be adhered to and all competing are requested to be aware of start times.


On the following day, Sunday 24th, at Castletownkenneigh with a 10.00am start, the inter-regional team finals will be held. Eighteen teams of three (1 x Nov C plus 2 x D) from the Association’s nine divisions will compete for the Sliabh Ban trophy with maximum distance achieved over ten shots determining the placings. The top three teams will go forward to a special team event to be held in conjunction with the junior C and novice All-Ireland series at Courtmacsherry on September 7th/8th. This, of course, will be a precursor to a fully-fledged All-Ireland team bowling event which will have its inaugural hosting in 2025. Association Honorary Secretary, MIchéal O’Ceallachain and Caroline O’Leary, Castletownkenneigh have issued time schedules for all eighteen competing teams.


A busy month of March will conclude with Easter weekend when another heavy schedule is planned. The Bol Fada festival at Keady-Tassagh is a traditional Easter staple and will again have a strong line-up while the Carbery-South/West inter-regional fund-raisers will take place at Fisher’s Cross. With the advent of evening bowling on Sunday 31st, championship activity in all divisions will intensify.


Bowling mourns the passing of one the greats of the sixties, seventies and eighties as the departure of Simon Buckley was announced at the weekend. From White’s Cross, a life-long member of Carrignavar Club and bowling out of the North East region, Simon was a phenomenal player at his peak possessed of blinding speed and uncanny accuracy. His golden year came in 1977 when he captured the All-Ireland junior A crown after a brilliant score with Ulster champion, Paddy McKeown. Played then at Castleblaney due to tensions across the border and with the famed Big Tom in attendance, the pair produced an epic shot for shot contest that ended with Buckley beating a monster last throw of McKeown’s by mere inches. Flor Crowley’s report in the ‘Southern Star’ recalls the noisy chorus of after score celebrations that ‘percolates even into the silent solitudes of locked hotel bedrooms’ and describes Simon Buckley as ‘the best Cork junior champion we ever had and now the best All-Ireland junior champion of them all to date’. It was a score Flor said, ‘that lifted us out of our doldrums, a score that made us feel proud of being a Corkmen and gave us a Corkman of which we can be really proud’. Simon remained a top junior for over a decade after and contested the county semi-final of 1989. He stayed active in the bowling game up to recently and competed in novice veteran, vintage and team events at Castletownkenneigh and Thurles. Sympathies are extended to the Buckley family and extended families Ar Dheis De go raibh a Anam dilis.


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