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Bowling Report - Week ending 12th May (Euros Special)

European Championships 2024


The elation felt at the heroic achievements of James O’Donovan and Liam Murphy in bringing home individual gold, the ultimate prize at these European championships, was tempered more than a little when the stark reality set in late on Saturday evening that our European rivals were about to regain dominance in our revered Road Bowling discipline. Our senior men, our stalwart standard-bearers for the last quarter century, were being relegated to secondary placings in too many of the ten match-ups that would decide bragging rights for the next four years. Initial perceptions were not groundless, and the final rankings told of a mini-rout for the Irish who failed to gain an individual podium place. The challenge had been well-flagged. Hosts FKV have upwards of forty thousand members at their disposal, familiarity with the undulating cambers on the Werdum road would be a big factor in favour for the Germans and Dutch and motivation too to achieve the dominance they brought to their last hosting in 2004 would guarantee a determined effort to put it up to the Irish. Yet with a talented team of proven achievers, Murphy, Sexton, Mackle, Coppinger, O’Donovan, Daly, Bohane all in tow it was expected that the status-quo would be maintained. It was not to be. The Dutch NKB, very adept in their underarm delivery, did most of the damage at the head of the field while home Association, FKV, filled five of the top ten places. The Irish team tried to stem the tide none moreso than defending champion, Seamus Sexton, who fought might and main and produced a thrilling late charge that for a moment looked if it might bear dividend’s. A fourth spot placing was what it delivered still 144 behind the tally of 1,902.1 achieved by new European Road Bowling champion, William Hobbelink of NKB Holland. Hobbelink was 117 better than his country man Luuk Zandrink while the days surprise packet Dirk Konig of the smaller German Association VSHB, outstanding in Thomas Mackle’s group, took individual bronze on 1,775.9. James O’Donovan, 11th, was next best of the Irish just ahead of two outstanding Italians Nicola Attea and Mattis Battini. Only David Murphy, Mackle and Tim Young of the remaining Irish senior men made the top twenty. This European dominance was reflected too in the team placings with FKV and NKB relegating Bol Chumann to bronze in the overall ranking. Still, for the entire Irish contingent those magic moments on the Moors course on Friday evening made these European Championships unforgettable in their own right. It was probably the tightest winning margin in European Championship history but nobody in the Irish camp cared a whit as James O’Donovan was held aloft 2024 Gold Medal winner amid feverish excitement on the Moors course Neuharlingerseil on Saturday last. Cathal Creedon had done the Irish cause proud as he led his Gaeltacht powered boys team to a silver medal podium place for himself and silver too for the team, but this was the pinnacle. The heavy hitters in the discipline had to be beaten and they circled with intent as the last two of the ten senior men’s matches were played out. O’Donovan had beaten another super-strong German FKV contender, Florian Elben, by less than two metres in his own penultimate match and held the lead on 1,068.15, but reigning champion Daniel Wilken also FKV and Dutchman, Rob Scholten, who had barely beaten O’Donovan for gold at the Ootmarsum games in 2016, had relegated Martin Coppinger to third place in the final match and were now closing on O’Donovan’s total. The grass was longer than on any part of the course and the crowd converged, drawn by the closeness of the battle. Scholten missed by just over a metre leaving Wilken to shoot for glory. When he fell short by a mere fifteen centimetres it was the cue for uproarious celebrations. The level of competition can be gauged by the final placings. Michael Bohane was next best of the Irish at 10th, Martin Coppinger, 11th, Gary Daly, Tim Young and Seamus Sexton all achieved top-twenty placings that ensured a team silver medal. Hosts FKV were team winners by a margin of 347 metres. That Moor’s course at Wittmund in Neuharlingerseil’s dyke district had unforgiving terrain for its last third. Cool and cloudy but benign conditions compared to the bitter north easterlies that blew showers of sleet on Martin Coppinger’s bid for gold two years ago in Meldorf, greeted the huge crowds and they were fully immersed from the word go. The boys U18 teams opened proceedings. It was very evident from the outset that the hosts had a strong line-up. Daniel Wilmer who was with Bol Chumann’s Daniel Wilmot in the opening score showed his paces early and recorded what would be the winning score of 946.35. Yet it was only fifty-two metres ahead of Cathal Creedon’s superb effort in the last match. Creedon drove on with determination in every shot and he wasn’t alone as fellow Ballyvourney panellist, Liam Murphy and City’s Anthony Crowley both rose to the occasion, won their matches and finished fifth and sixth from the twenty competitors. The Irish boys were, however, pipped for team gold by the hosts FKV. The girls team Ellen Sexton, Rosin Allen and Darcy O’Brien 5th, 7th and 9th respectively, gave it everything too but their FKV and NKB counterparts had the edge in terms of power and took the individual podium places. Mandy Sanders, FKV, was the star winning individual gold. The Irish girls took bronze in the team category. The third grouping out on the Moors on Saturday, were the senior ladies and here, taking centre stage and finding a way for the umpteenth time was the irrepressible Silke Tulk who won gold for the fifth successive games. In the sixth and final match, Silke trailed rising German star, Fernke Wlberts for almost the entire contest yet, dug deep and won the final exchange by just under six metres (838.45 – 832.8) to preserve her incredible record. It was almost complete domination by the FKV and NKB who filled each of the top ten places. There were commendable performances by the Irish contenders, Hannah Sexton 11th, Emma Hickey, 13th, Veronica O’Mahony who started brilliantly, Ciara Buckley, Hannah Cronin and Rachel Desmond whose efforts were rewarded with bronze in the team placings. MURPHY RULES ON THE ROAD. That fission of excitement from the previous evening’s drama on the Moors course remained when the championships resumed on the road at Werdum on a blissful Saturday morning. It soon gathered momentum as the boys from the competing Associations undertook a ferocious battle for supremacy. Once again, the Irish showed their prowess garnering a victory for the ages firstly through the combined efforts of all four team members and, most especially, through the individual brilliance of gold medal winner, Ballyvourney’s Liam Murphy. Playing in the third match out, Murphy was bang on form posting big figures shot after shot, yet, he could not quite shake off a tenacious NKB rival, Bart Lucas, who had stayed steadfastly on his coattails. Murphy’s ninth, a 280 metre cannon seemed to have done the trick until Lucas, from a long way back, pulled a miracle shot around the last bend. Marked down, it gave Murphy an extremely tricky target to beat with a gold medal at stake. Showing admirable composure, the Gaeltacht youth drilled his response to perfection and was immediately enveloped by his ecstatic teammates. Even then it wasn’t quite over as City’s Anthony Crowley, playing a blinder in the last score out and eclipsing his rivals in his match, had a small chance of passing Murphy’s mark with his tenth but a misjudgement here cost him an individual podium place. He finished fourth. Cathal Creedon was superb too winning his match and only for a wayward ninth would surely have been higher than the very creditable fifth place he attained. Jonathan Deane contributed hugely too staying on the heels of a very strong German rival, Oke Goldstein, who led the way after the first score and finished third overall. Liam Murphy’s winning total was 1,824.9 metres and team gold was achieved by a whopping 470 metre margin. As in the Moors discipline on Friday, Bol Chumann girls faced stern opposition from all competing nations. First out, Armagh’s Michaela Green had to contend with a very strong home player Nele Carstens and an athletic NKB rival, Silke Aveskamp second and third overall respectively but did well enough to come third in her match, a contribution that gave Bol Chumann a bronze team placing. The real star of the girls Road Bowling championship was in Laura Sexton’s group. Merle Aveskamp blitzed the road attaining a gold medal winning total of 1,435.8 over 200 ahead of second placed Carstens. Ellen Sexton was Bol Chumann’s best hope, and she certainly gave it everything leading her group for a while. But here too FKV’s Paula JanBen came to fore in the last shots pipping the Irish champion for fourth place by just three metres. The senior ladies also found it hard to keep up to the Europeans on the road. Hannah Sexton’s brilliant opening salvo had her well ahead of such luminaries as Silke Tulk and Anke Klopper after three but a miscalculation with her fourth set her back. Silke remains imperious. Looking uncharacteristically off the pace in the early stages of the last match out, she stayed in the zone and produced a blinding finish that won her her second gold of the games by a margin of over 70 metres. She carded 1,574.95 for her ten shots. Marelie Folkens of FKV in the first score out with Siobhan Mackle was second on 1,504.6 while another Dutch star, Suzanne Zieverink took individual bronze with 1,471.5. Siobhan from Armagh played outstandingly well in that opening match and stayed with the silver medallist for much of the way. She finished eighth and best of the Irish on 1,378.15. Luck did not go Hannah Sexton’s way after that bright opening but her 1,276.5 had her in 11th place from thirty starters. Dervla Mallon, Geraldine Curtin, Ciara Buckley and Rachel Desmond did enough to secure a bronze team placing for Bol Chumann. Finally to the German Loft arena on a balmy Sunday by the North Sea coast. The lofting specialists of FKV and VSHB take centre stage and invariably take the medals too. 2024 was no exception. The battle for supremacy between the German Associations is quite the spectacle and with the ‘ramp’ in frequent use the various techniques are on full display. Irish senior men’s lofters have a good record in the discipline without threatening German dominance. Beating the Dutch for the bronze team medal is the target and this was achieved again. But it was the VSHB who again stole a march on the hosts as Mike Phlan with a single best of 94.1 contributing to his Gold Medal winning total of 269.1, who was declared the new European Champion. His compatriot, Kal Engle VSHB, on 252.7 took silver and Hendrick Rudebush (FKV) 251.6, bronze. David Murphy and Martin Coppinger 20th and 21st (201.65 and 201.15) were best of the Irish just ahead of Thomas Mackle who surprised more than a few with his fine lofting technique. There was a consistency in the Irish performances. Michael Murphy, Tim Young, Michael Bohane, James O’Donovan, Seamus Sexton, Brian Wilmot and Andrew O’Callaghan were all closely aligned inside the top thirty. Their scores gave them third placed team medals by a 300 metre margin. Out first again were the boys and the Irish quartet of Cathal Creedon, Jonathan Deane, Anthony Crowley and Liam Murphy showed up well with lofts of 50/60 metres. Their aggregate was enough to see off the Dutch and take a bronze team placing. VSHB’s Thede Klinck with three in excess of 75 metres won Gold, pipping FKV’s Hauke Roolfs who had two over 80 but one at 65.85. Another FKV all-rounder, Moors champion, Devin Hilmer was third. The girls tried hard too but the combined efforts of Ellen Sexton, Laura Sexton and Rosin Allen were not enough to prevent the Dutch from taking team bronze. VSHB had the top two here with Inga Klick taking gold followed by Elke Carestensen. FKV’s Finja Frels was third. Having been pipped for individual gold in the under-age sector, hosts FKV were to the fore in senior women. Ferenka Wilberts with an average of 65 metres for her three throws is the European Women’s champion edging her compatriots Lena Stulke and Lene Gerjets to second and third. Bol Chumann’s ladies were down the listings, Hannah Sexton, Veronica O’Mahony and Rachel Desmond, 15th, 16th 17th, the top three. Thursday’s parade of competing nations gave the perfect send-off to the championships. The picturesque harbour town was thronged as thousands marched to beating drums along its narrow streets. Association representatives including James O’Driscoll for Bol Chumann, acknowledged the significance of the occasion in words of welcome from the podium. The scheduled International Bowlplaying Association meeting under the chairmanship of Ernst Reimers, set a similar tone of welcome and cooperation. The 2028 European Championships would return to Ireland for the first time since 2008 and significantly three from Bol Chumann were unanimously elected to officerships within the IBA. James O’Driscoll will assume the role of vice-chairman, while Caroline O’Leary and Gretta Cormican will jointly act as secretary until 2028. The final presentation and closing ceremony on Sunday evening had the sunlit harbour town again thronged. The successful hosting had brought together bowling communities from across the continent and all looked forward to meeting again in 2028 when it will be Ireland’s turn to host what will be the 18th European Championships.


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