Including a preview to this weekend's All-Irelands along with a report from the Noel Phair Cup Final as well as other regional scores
A late autumn visit to Baile Mhuirne in the West Muskerry Gaeltacht is the treat in store for bowling followers on this holiday weekend. An All-Ireland staging that should, had the world not been turned upside down, have taken place in mid-July 2020, will finally unfold after many twists and turns. Steeped in ancient history, scenic and picturesque, Baile Bhuirne’s charms are perennial and those who visit for this special event will receive a warm welcome. The road to Cuil Aodha, with its wide-open stretches, provides an ideal setting for all competitors to show their best form and the weekend’s line-up holds all the ingredients for a bowling feast.
Bowling’s 2020 championship season had barely begun when Covid struck in mid-March and, although much progress was made at regional level in the four-month window from the first return in June, most grades remained unfinished when the October shutdown resulted in an eight-month stoppage. The completion of what had been started was the sole focus when activities resumed in early June this year and thanks to the sterling work of many, two All-Ireland series have been successfully concluded at Newtownhamilton and Westport. Now it’s Baile Bhuirne’s turn with a seven-score clár featuring the game’s best in four adult and three under-age grades. Topping the bill is the senior showdown involving Cork’s new champion, Arthur McDonagh, going for his first national title, and Ulster’s supremo, Thomas Mackle, seeking his second. Difficult to call, both were highly impressive in their respective provincial wins and showed plenty even in semi-final defeats at the recent King of the Roads festival. Their most recent high-profile clash was a titanic King of the Roads final in 2018 won at the death by Mackle as he secured a historic four-in-row at the Ballincurrig festival.
The senior final brings the curtain down on the weekend spectacle. It has a 1.00pm start time on Sunday afternoon. The womens intermediate final first out on Saturday morning has its own intrigue. Cork’s brilliant champion, Hannah Sexton, is on an incredible winning streak and will be the favourite again, but she has not come up against an experienced a campaigner as Sinead Kiernan in her burgeoning career thus far. In an extraordinary three-year spell, (2012-2014) Sinead captured four All-Irelands U16, U18 twice and intermediate. Only Mairead O’Driscoll’s electric finish at Portmor in 2015 deprived her of a third U18. Yet, although impressive in her Ulster winning campaign, she hasn’t been to the forefront in recent years having dropped down from senior and this is where Hannah Sexton may have the advantage. Tommy O’Sullivan is a very strong Cork U16 champion and will be the fancy to claim another under-age crown when he takes on Philip Conlon in the second of Saturday’s finals back in the Cuil Aodha road. The junior B final promises a humdinger. Wayne Parkes is enjoying exceptional success, already U18 All-Ireland champion and now hoping to add another title to his haul. In the opposite corner, Eugene McVeigh is fast emerging as a bowler of stature evidenced in a top-drawer King of the Roads showing and again on a recent visit to Baile Mhuirne where he accounted for the seasoned Vincent Kiely. It’s hard to see beyond Parkes but McVeigh is a real threat. Tony Carey and Joe Shortt will both be going for a second veterans crown early on Sunday morning. Carey, who won at Derrinasafa in 2011, has had the harder campaign while Shortt, winner at Grenagh in 2018, will provide a real test. Ellen Sexton, sister of Hannah, will have to be on form in girls U16 as Caoimhe Rafferty, Ulster dual U18 and U16 champion, demonstrated a fine aptitude even in defeat at Newtownhamilton in August.
Baile Bhuirne’s programme starts on Friday afternoon with a challenge score, a repeat of the recent junior A final, Andrew O’Callaghan v Sean Donnelly. This is followed by the first of the weekend’s finals, the boys U12 shoot-out, played back the road. Cork’s Ben Cooney, should he produce his devastating Munster championship form, will be tipped to give the home side a winning start when he takes on Eoghan McVeigh. All in all, much to look forward to in a delightful setting where indeed the cupla focal is very much part of the vernacular. New Bol Chumann Honorary Secretary, Micheál O’Ceallacháin, a man immersed in the promotion of his native language and culture, along with hard-working regional chair, Eamonn McSweeney, head up the organising committee. SSE Renewables are aboard as sponsors and TG Ceathar will film highlights.
The full Baile Bhuirne programme is as follows:
Friday October 22:
2.00pm Challenge Score: Andrew O'Callaghan (Cork) v Sean Donnelly (Armagh):
3.00 Boys U12 final, Ben Cooney (Cork) v Eoghan McVeigh (Armagh).
Saturday October 23:
9.00am Women's Intermediate final: Hannah Sexton (Cork) v Sinead Kiernan (Armagh):
11.00am Boys U16 final: Tommy O'Sullivan (Cork) v Philip Conlon (Armagh)
2.00pm Junior B final: Wayne Parkes (Cork) v Eugene McVeigh (Armagh)
Sunday October 24:
9.00am Men's veteran final: Tony Carey (Cork) v Joe Shortt (Armagh):
11.00am Girls U16 final: Ellen Sexton (Cork) v Caoimhe Rafferty (Armagh):
1.00pm Men's Senior final: Arthur McDonagh (Cork) v Thomas Mackle (Armagh):
Presentations will take place at Cuil Aodha hall at the end of each day’s play.
In the club action at the weekend, the big one was the Noel Phair Cup final at Shannonvale on Sunday afternoon. The attraction was the latest shoot-out between Martin Coppinger and David Murphy and the South-West venue were hosts for their Phair Cup decider. Murphy, on the back of some high-octane King of the Road winning performances was the punters favourite in the €7,600 total stake and was on the front foot in all the early exchanges. As with their many contests in the past, there was a rare intensity about the exchanges as they fought for the upper hand on the tough rising stretch out from Shannonvale. Coppinger’s fourth did not run well and missed the ‘quarry bend’ giving Murphy a chance to consolidate his lead. His well-played attempt didn’t quite make it out either and a small chance was gone. Both reached ‘Buttimer’s pillars’ in two more, Murphy with the better stand ten metres ahead. Coppinger’s well-played seventh for sight at ‘Desmond’s’ whipped right and missed but Murphy, very unluckily it has to be said, also missed leaving it more or less level as they lofted across. The King of the Road champion still held sway in the shots to ‘Kingston’s’, both again deserving of more as Coppinger up the rise and Murphy with his eleventh got little purchase on well-played bowls. An exciting closing half looked in store with thirty metres separating them on the downward stretch to ‘Tobin’s’, but that did not materialise. Murphy missed a beatable mark set by Coppinger’s eleventh, a pothole doing for both attempts, and that exchange signalled a big drop in the Brinny man’s form. Coppinger’s powerful drive down the incline rose a bowl of odds as Murphy’s thirteenth and fourteenth were wayward and a sweeping cast to ‘Campbell’s’ kept the Bantry man’s lead intact. Another big one past the junior line and the contest was over, Coppinger demonstrating that he remains a senior powerhouse capable of winning anything he sets his mind to.
In senior action at Whitechurch on Saturday, North Cork’s Seamus Sexton got the better of Eamonn Bowen, one bowl, for a combined €4,200. On Saturday at Lyre, junior B’s Killian O’Sullivan and Adrian Buttimer engaged in an exciting duel for a combined €2,300. Shot for shot it went as the lead exchanged to the ‘double bends’ before Templemartin’s O’Sullivan made a break with a big throw to ‘McCarthy’s bend’. Buttimer rallied well with a nice touch at the ‘rose bed’ regaining the lead, but O’Sullivan had the final say with a massive second last throw which was enough to give him victory.
Regional championships progressed. In West Cork at Ardcahan, two likely novice B contenders clashed, and it was Dunmanway’s Gareth Crowley who ended the run of Castledonovan’s Seamus O’Regan. This one was going O’Regan’s way from the off. The Castledonovan man was easing to a win, a bowl and odds up with three to go but a bad mistake with his second last cost him and Crowley advanced with his only fore bowl after the vital last exchange. In under-age at Ardcahan, U18, Paudie Crowley won from Ronan Hurley. At Durrus, the O’Sullivan brothers, Johnstown, had mixed fortunes but remain very much in the frame for regional honours. In U18 Con ousted a leading contender, Danny O’Donovan, after a thrilling set-to. O’Sullivan, who took an early lead repelled a determined challenge from O’Donovan in a high-quality last quarter to win this one. In U16, Brian O’Sullivan’s bid was thwarted by Oisin Murphy-Hurley, son of regional secretary, Paudie, after another top-notch clash. Murphy-Hurley’s big finish saw him home by a bowl of odds. Brian O’Sullivan remains in contention in U14 having reached the last four in that championship. At Kealkil also in under-age, there was a double for the Dunmanway Crowley’s. In U18, Alan won from Ciaran O’Sullivan, last shot of a great score and in U16 Eamonn just edged another last finish against a plucky Liam Young. Ballinacarriga hosted two West Cork under-age scores. Brian O’Driscoll hit top form in his U18 win over Adam Daly while in U16, Eoin Hurley of Drinagh won from James Russell. In the novice B championship at Bantry, David Horgan defeated Brian Hurley.
In the Gaeltacht championships at Baile Bhuirne a novice C shoot-out saw Peter Burnes come out on top against Adrian O’Driscoll and in a D championship score here, Shane Keane of Macroom won from Chris De Jagger of Clondrohid. Keane has emerged a serious contender at this level. At Terelton on Sunday, Mattie McDonagh’s good run continued with a victory over Denis O’Leary while upgraded, Darren Kelly, won his novice B contest from Denis Bradley. Regional finals were played out in North Cork. Kilcorney was the venue for three as Liam McCarthy defeated Stephen Spillane by a bowl in the novice C decider for a €2,200 total and Rihanna Collins continued her upward surge with victory in U16 from Rachel Lucey. In boys U12, Dion Mackey won a great final from Jayden Crowley. Another score at busy Kilcorney saw Micky McAuliffe win from Brendan Cotter, last shot, for €1,500.