Donal O’Riordan, Bantry, and Brian Wilmot, Bandon, meet for the 2023 intermediate championship at Ballygurteen on this Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm. The challengers for this year’s crown booked their final slots in contrasting fashion with respective wins over Wayne Parkes and Wayne Callanan. The Bantry man’s joust with Parkes, who has had the upper hand in their more recent head to heads, ensured a packed Marsh Road on Sunday and revenge was sweet as he forged a last shot win from a contest of sometimes mixed bowling but one that was, nonetheless, entertaining to the last shot. Clon man, Parkes, with youth on his side, was the overwhelming favourite but O’Riordan brought a large following from his local hinterland, and they backed their man in the €11,600 total stake the contest went for. Up for the fray from the start, O’Riordan opened a sixty-metre gap with two big opening throws. Parkes, unusually for him, could not find the gears in that opening phase and he was a bowl down after four and five to the ‘council gates.’ It was O’Riordan who missed a chance to consolidate and even double his odds in the shots to and from the ‘quarry entrance’ and he was under pressure to hold his advantage when Parkes went sight at ‘the steps’ with a good eleventh. The Bantry man answered that challenge with a smashing tenth and held most of his bowl lead in mixed bowling to ‘Ballyhilty’. When Parkes found the grass with a short sixteenth it looked all over but he rebounded with a magnificent effort up towards the last bend. O’Riordan, still with a bit to do, missed that mark and left himself with a handy tip to beat the line when his next went right. Parkes had a go with his final effort, and it nearly came off. O’Riordan was very assured with a fine last shot that gave him a well-deserved victory.
Brian Wilmot was utterly convincing in his semi-final win at Newcestown on Friday.
City’s Wayne Callanan had shown plenty in competitive battles with Billy McAuliffe and Andrew O’Callaghan but had no answer to a near record-breaking performance from the former senior finalist although he did win the opening exchange. The favourite from the outset in the €400 total stake, Wilmot hit three big efforts on the trot following his average opener and was, thanks to an incredible fourth, a bowl to the good in four and five to ‘Mac’s cross’. The Bandon man fired a big fifth up towards ‘Allen’s Lane’ and he followed with a succession of searing drives to ‘Desmond’s’ at which point his lead had doubled. Callanan tried but could make no inroads as Wilmot seamlessly hit ‘Collin’s Lane’ in thirteen. He was on course for road-record figures before matters were terminated a few shots from the finish as his City rival sportingly conceded. The final on Saturday evening is a repeat of the 2011 decider which was played at Derrinasafa and won by Wilmot. O’Riordan, also a finalist last year when Patrick Flood took the spoils at Ballincurrig and, previous to that in 2017 when Michael Harrington won at Grenagh, will be hoping for a change of fortune in final appearances and will certainly be buoyed after upsetting the apple cart with a fine win over one of the competition favourites. That said, Wilmot, a former senior finalist, will undoubtedly carry the favourites tag but an intriguing encounter awaits.
South-West’s Denis O’Sullivan is through to the junior A final after his defeat of North Cork’s Mark Bourke at Clondrohid on Sunday morning. For a €2,300 total, O’Sullivan’s second and fourth were short but he still held a narrow lead gained by a good first shot. It was his seventh to the bend beyond ‘The Bell Inn’ that catapulted him into an eighty-metre lead and it proved the catalyst for a one bowl win. He plays either Paidin Stokes (City) or Paddy O’Donnell (North East) in the decider.
The ladies’ senior championship has suffered another setback following the withdrawal through injury of reigning champion, Hannah Sexton. A shoulder injury has not healed up sufficiently to allow her contest her semi-final shoot-out with Geraldine Curtin and so, with deadlines looming, she is forced to relinquish her crown. Geraldine who has impressed in the scores she has played on her return, will take on last year’s intermediate winner, Denise Murphy who also maintaining her winning streak at the higher level, in the county final at Castletownkenneigh on this Friday evening at 7.00pm.
In other championship action, the U18 preliminary round score at Templemartin involved two of the grade’s heavy hitters. Intermediate graded, Tommy O’Sullivan and North East junior A winner, Paddy O’Donnell had a cracker at the Mid Cork venue on Friday evening with both showing the power and playing ability relative to their respective grades. O’Sullivan’s five to ‘Slynne’s corner’ had him nicely ahead but the North East youth fired seven of the finest to forge marginally in front down by the ‘stonefield bend’. O’Sullivan hit a good effort from here and it proved a turning point as O’Donnell’s attempt broke off the play conceding big odds to his South-West rival. O’Sullivan stayed in front and will play Carbery’s Shane McCarthy in the quarterfinal this week at The Clubhouse. ‘Sensational’ was how Ted Hegarty described the closing stages of a gripping U18 semi-final at Lyre on Saturday evening. Two strong and capable contenders, Conor O’Donovan (Mid Cork) and Mark Deane (West) fought like gladiators for a place in the decider and it was O’Donovan who got there by a mere metre. It was an agonising loss though for Dean whose opening three were top-class and powered him to a bowl lead. O’Donovan’s brilliant fifth cut the odds but Dean still held big law approaching the finish. With the line in sight his second last went right too soon and incredibly missed not only the line but O’Donovan’s mark handing the Mid Cork champion his first lead. Dean seemed certain to have made amends with a superb last shot, but O’Donovan followed and beat it by the slimmest of margins. There was a double for Mid Cork on the evening. The regions stylish U14 representative, Jack Allen of Newcestown is through to the county final after ending the fine run of West Cork’s champion, Kevin Courtney from Bantry. A competitive contest throughout, it was Jack’s opening six when he rose a bowl lead, that proved the main springboard for his success. In an U18 girl’s quarterfinal at Clondrohid on Wednesday, Drinagh’s Emma Hurley, returned to action after her All-Ireland heroics of the previous weekend and that winning habit shows no signs of abating as she came through a tough battle with North Cork’s Rihanna Collins to book a county semi-final spot in the higher age group. In another quarterfinal clash at Ballinacarriga on Sunday morning, Ellen Sexton, advanced after a fine shot for shot contest with Carbery’s Niamh O’Sullivan. Niamh held a narrow lead at ‘Hehir’s’ but the very consistent Ellen, representing the South West division, had the edge over the closing quarter. In the semi-finals Ellen will contest with Gaeltacht’s Ailbhe O’Shea while Emma takes on Mid Cork’s Rosin Allen. The vintage (over 60’s) grade got going at The Pike and here in section C, Pat Joe Connolly defeated Pat McCarthy, last shot.
As championships reach their concluding stages, tournament competitions, come more and more to the fore. On a busy week, when two were completed and another reached the final stage, Arthur McDonagh won the Noel Phair Cup and Matthew Bradley who won the Paddy O’Donovan Cup at Lyre, were outright trophy winners. Neighbouring North-East rivals, McDonagh and Patrick Flood duelled at Shannonvale for the Phair Cup and a wholesome battle it proved to be. It was one the youthful Flood can count himself decidedly unlucky to lose having been ahead in all but four of the seventeen shots from line to line. A searing third throw, whipped tightly on the right pushed him a bowl of odds up and he held the bones of that to ‘Desmond’s cross’, a point he reached in seven. A perfectly played eighth failed to run and McDonagh with two pile drivers to ‘Kingston’s lane’ levelled the score. McDonagh then took the lead, but Flood replied with a thunderbolt and was in charge again at the ‘palms’. McDonagh had it level again with a great shot to ‘Campbell’s’ and this led to an exciting finale. Flood lost the lead for only the third time after the fifteenth exchange but then fired a three-hundred metre canon that seemed sure to be decisive. McDonagh did not wilt and, a shade luckily off the right’ came within twenty metres of a huge tip. A sweeping last shot then won it for McDonagh. Bradley from Coachford was in scintillating form in his win at Lyre on Wednesday. Carbery’s Gavin Harrington, had beaten a few fancied contenders on his way to the final but could not stay with his North Cork rival’s power play on this occasion. For a combined €5,300, Bradley’s incredible start had him on top of ‘the mason’s hill’ in three from the start line at Lyre Bar. Harrington did well to limit the damage to a bowl deficit after four and five but fell two behind when the Coachford man hit an impeccable seventh to ‘Knockskeagh school’. Harrington brought it under two but there was no catching Bradley in the form he was in. At Grange on Thursday, there was another success for North Cork when David Hubbard edged a cracking junior A tournament semi-final score with Alex O’Donovan, last shot for €1,880. Hubbard built a narrow early lead and defiantly held it to the end. O’Donovan challenged particularly in good bowling up past ‘Hodnett’s but could not forge in front. Hubbard’s final opponent will come from the second penultimate round score between Christy Mullins and Trevor O’Meara. In tournament action at Beal namBlath on Wednesday, Mid Cork’s novice C winner, David Desmond won a good contest with Sean Nyhan. For a €2,200 total an even enough duel swung Desmond’s way when he fired an exceptional effort out and around the last corner.
After a hectic week of finals at regional level, the county round series in the junior C and four novice grades promise an action-filled August. In the South-West division, Ivan Buchannon won the novice A final at Timoleague on Friday defeating John Connolly by a bowl for €1,400. Buchannon’s opener had a big bearing as it gave him a bowl lead when his Shannonvale rival got no purchase on his reply. Buchannon was consistent for the remainder and doubled his lead close to the finish. The novice D final was a family affair at Fisher’s Cross on Saturday evening. Here Jack O’Driscoll defeated his brother Matthew for the Mark O’Donovan Cup.
Liam Hurley is West Cork junior C champion after a good local derby contest with fellow clubman, Neil Crowley, at Togher Cross on Saturday evening. Crowley held a handy advantage beyond half-way, but the more consistent Hurley battled back and won in the final exchanges. Brian O’Driscoll won the West Cork novice A final at Ardcahan defeating Chris Cronin by a bowl of odds. In the novice B championship at Ardcahan, Alan Brickley defeated Connie O’Leary by two bowls to set up a semi-final clash with Connie’s brother, Sean. In junior ladies at Inch Ballinacarriga’s Emer O’Connell won from Shauna Kehily.
The Mid Cork novice B final was played out at Dunderrow on Saturday evening for a €2,500 total. Owen O’Flynn and Kevin O’Crualaoi had a good joust that stayed in the balance to the final exchanges. Waterfall man, O’Flynn, made the better start and rose a bowl after six. O’Crualaoi’s determined efforts to level looked like paying off when he reduced the margin to fifty metres, but he could get no closer and O’Flynn regained the shot of odds just before the finish.
The Gaeltacht novice A final at Inchigeela on Saturday at inchigeela pitched two bowlers from
different age spectrums, Cillian Kelleher from Toons Bridge an up and coming youngster versus veteran Baile Bhuirne player Noel Murphy. Murphy shaded the opening two shots to ‘the orchard’. Kelleher really upped the tempo with three massive bowls to ‘the lane’. Murphy stayed in contention, but Kelleher was 80 eighty metres fore. Kelleher was relentless and rose a bowl at the halfway mark. Murphy then produced a train to the grotto entrance, but Kelleher was perfect up the right to beat the tip and increase the advantage to a bowl and thirty yards. Murphy was not done with and another miler past the second entrance kept him in with a small chance but again Kelleher was accurate and powerful and held the bowl and fifty yards. Murphy just missed the line and Kelleher beat it to claim the title in a score that was out of the top drawer. In a score back the road here, Brian Horgan defeated Anthony Lynch, last shot, for €3,240. In a novice C semi-final at Clondrohid, Mattie McDonagh defeated Martin O’Connor. The first of the novice B semi-finals at Ballyvourney was a father-son clash and here it was Liam Murphy, last years, U16 All-Ireland winner, who progressed at the expense of Paudie. In the novice D semi-final at Clondrohid on Monday, Brian Crowley defeated Mikey O’Callaghan. The Gaeltacht junior ladies’ championship will be keenly contested if early round scores are an indicator. At Macroom on Wednesday, Ailbhe O’Shea, already the regional U18 winner, came through a tough battle with Joan Anne Kelleher while in a second fixture two former county champions were in opposition. It was Adrianna Creedon, the outright winner in 2009 and making a welcome return who shaded a terrific contest with her namesake from Ballyvourney, 2020 champion, Aoife Creedon. The second of the novice B semi-finals went ahead at Cill na Martra on Sunday and here Stephen Crowley from Macroom took on the former junior A kingpin, Patrick Moynahin. For a €2,400 total, it was Crowley, using his underarm technique to good effect who won in the last shot. Back here, Liam Kearney defeated Denis Paul Bradley, last shot, for €1,740. Also in the Gaeltacht division, Jamie McCarthy and Paudie Lucey engaged in a novice D semi-final for a combined €2,000. McCarthy’s two bowl early lead stood him in good stead as he won by the shot. Back the road, Diarmuid Lucey defeated Com Dromey, last shot, for €2,200.
The City division mourned the passing of a former great when Sean Murphy, Rochestown, went to his reward on All-Ireland weekend. Sean was a top junior in the fifties and sixties era and is in bowling’s roll of honour as County junior A champion of 1964. That still remembered final was played at The Miles where in opposition was Drinagh man, John Young. Sean bowled an exemplary score on the day. He maintained his interest in bowling right to the end. Rest in Peace. City divisional championships are concluding in the junior C and novice grades. On Wednesday last at Templemichael, Jimmy Quilligan won junior C from Gareth Bourke almost two bowls for €1,500. In a return score, Ryan Buckley defeated Michael O’Leary, one bowl, for €4,000. On the previous week, Quilligan, won his semi-final with Maurice Connolly at Templemichael, two bowls, for a €6,000 total and Bourke had a similar wide margin penultimate round victory over Dave Mackey at the same venue. Mark Long won the novice A final at Whitechurch defeating Denis Connolly in the last shot for €4,000. At The Bog Road on Thursday in a novice C semi-final, Paul Murphy defeated Gary Maguire in the last shot and, here too, in novice D quarterfinal round fixture saw Mick O’Driscoll (Jun) Blarney win from Ray O’Keefe for a €300 total. In a doubles contest at The Bog Road on Sunday, Johnny Byrnes and Michael O’Mahony defeated Bernard O’Donovan and Nicholas Geoghegan, last shot, for €1,100. Also at The Bog Road, in novice D, Tony Delaney defeated Pascal Bowen and in a return doubles here, Mick O’Driscoll, Blarney, (jun), combined with Johnny Byrnes to defeat Jeremy Downey and Bernard O’Donovan, last shot, for a €2,000 total. At Curraheen, Paul Murphy looked strong in his novice C win over Michael Twohig. The novice A final at Whitechurch on Monday was won in the last shot by Mark Long. Playing Denis Connolly, both men had come to the final on the back of big performances, but it was a decider of missed chances. For a €4,000 total, Connolly had a handy early lead before Long edged ahead after five. It came to the last shots which Long edged to move to the county rounds.
The North Cork novice A semi-final at Peake on Monday evening had Jamie Kelleher, a youth’s international on Bol Chumann’s team at the 2022 games in Meldorf, pitted against Simon O’Connell of Coachford. Having been in arrears early on, Kelleher came through a bowl of odds winner. In a score back, Mikey O’Regan won from Jerry Hubbard, last shot, for €1,040. Beal naMorrive on Wednesday hosted the novice c semi between Kevin O’Donoghue and Stephen Spillane. For a €1,200 total, O’Donoghue’s huge fourth got him a bowl in front and, although pegged back to thirty metres, stayed ahead and eventually won by the bowl. Back here, Brian Crowley defeated Will Harrington for €1,340.
In the North-East novice A semi-final, at Doneraile, Michael Ahern defeated Stephen Cahill, last shot. Here too in the novice D decider, Michael Sheehan defeated Conor Murphy in the last shot for €2,560.
‘The Score’, a contemporary art project and exhibition by Irish artist, James Luke Hayes is a valued exploration of the heritage, culture and sporting tradition of Irish Road Bowling and it’s unveiling by Cllr, Michael Looney at Macroom Town Hall on Saturday July 8 was appropriate as it coincided with the All-Ireland Cork series taking place on the same weekend at Ballincurrig. The exhibition was warmly received by bowling personnel North and South who attended in numbers along with a sizable cohort from the Arts world. Cllr Looney spoke of his delight at the involvement of Cork County Council and praised the initiative of Maeve Mulreanny of the Council’s Arts Office who commissioned the project with the support of Creative Ireland. Dr. Seamus O’Tuama congratulated Mr. Hayes on bringing his artwork to fruition. He said it enhances the sports profile and will generate renewed interest as the exhibition moves to different locations. ‘The Score’ which features striking contributions in the form of action shots and delivery from leading exponents, Hannah Cronin, Togher Cross, and Billy Connolly, Glanmire, also delves deeper into the relationship of sport with the ‘cast-iron’ bowl used to play it since its inception. In his design, Mr. Hayes, considered the casting a series of unique road bowls for which he would use new technologies alongside traditional methods of iron-casting and mould-making for which he is renowned. In response he designed and built a bespoke iron furnace which would be responsible for casting enough iron to make several road bowls. He visualised bowls entering ditches the imprint of which remained on the bowl in Hayes’ eye. He began incorporating these imprints from flowers, nettles. leaves, grass and other flora from this environment.
The work highlights a non-narrative artistic observation of the game, its athleticism, theatre and spectacle. In his address, Mr. Hayes, said he was delighted to be welcomed into the community of bowling, its players and supporters and said it was both a privilege and a beautiful way to expose the world of bowling to the greater public. He thanked in particular Dr. O’Tuama, James O’Driscoll and Jim Cronin for their help and advice with his project. In a message of congratulation, former Mayor Cork County, Cllr Danny Collins spoke of his delight at the creation of the new artwork. He said Road Bowling was a big part of our cultural heritage and through this artwork it is memorialised and brought to new audiences’. In reference to Cork County Council support Mr. Collins said the project aligns with the Council’s Creative Strategy which ensures that all people living in County Cork have the opportunity to realise their full creative potential’. ‘The Score’ runs at Macroom Town Hall from Monday 10 to Saturday 29th July. Admission is free and open to everyone.
The bowling fraternity north and south were saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Shortt one of Armagh’s most popular performers. Originally from Keady, Joe bowled out of the Drumcairn club and made his mark on various All-Ireland series over a period spanning three decades. Joe was a versatile athlete and displayed his prowess on the hurling and football fields as well as on the bowling roads of Armagh and Cork. Joe won county championships at various levels and made eight appearances in All-Ireland finals winning on two occasions. His greatest day came at Grenagh in 2018 when he captured the All-Ireland veterans crown after a great contest with Ted Hegarty. He is the last Ulster man to win that particular championship. He contested also in veterans finals with Chris O’Donovan in 2013 at Portmor-Blackwatertown; with Jimmy Collins, Lyre 2016; with John Shorten, Tullysaran 2019 and again at Baile Bhuirne in 2021 for the 2020 veterans championship with Tony Carey. In previous All-Irelands, he was a winner in the novice 2 grade at Clashmore in 2010 defeating Mayo’s Peter Gibbons in that decider. He lost out to City’s Adrian Callanan in the 2016 junior C final at Fenor and, back in 1992 was runner-up to Derry Kenny in the junior B All-Ireland on The Cathedral Road in Armagh. Always competitive on the road, Joe was also the life and soul of many an after-score gathering. Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam.