Ból Fada’s Easter festival at Keady-Tassagh, Armagh, showcased some of the best bowling of the year so far. The sizable Cork contingent had a worthwhile trip winning their share of the spoils including the prestigious Joe McVeigh Cup, the feature event on the card. All-Ireland champion, Arthur McDonagh confirmed his status as the game’s top exponent with an emphatic two-bowl victory over Colm Rafferty in Sunday’s McVeigh Cup final. On a rain-soaked afternoon, the Fermoy man carried too much power for his northern counterpart and led the score from the opening shot. Earlier on Sunday in the Pete Grimley Cup, John O’Rourke reaffirmed his dominance over Mark Toal with a one bowl victory for 4,200. As the rain descended, Armagh’s Darragh Gribben and Cork’s David Hubbard took issue for a combined 15,000. Gribben came from a bowl down to win this one in the last shot.
Saturday’s Joe McVeigh Cup semi-finals threw up an early surprise with the elimination of Thomas Mackle, the competition favourite, who went down to his fellow county man, Colm Rafferty. Mackle, unluckily it has to be said, had a bowl accidentally blocked at a vital juncture, but he still led the score past half-way. Rafferty came in front at the ‘Creamery point’ and doggedly held his lead to the finish. The second semi between the Corkmen, Arthur McDonagh and David Murphy was a thrilling encounter that ebbed and flowed from the off. Murphy had the better of it for almost two thirds of the way but never by a big margin. McDonagh put in a storming finish to take the verdict and the 50,000 total stake. There was victory for the Cork camp too in the Saturday morning score when Patrick Flood repeated his Marsh Road victory over Armagh’s rising star, Eugene McVeigh. For a 12,000 total, Flood won by a bowl. Armagh came out on top in the womens doubles contest that closed out Saturday’s bowling. Siobhan Mackle-Murphy and Dervla Mallon were two bowls too good for the Cork pairing of Claire O’Sullivan and Hannah Sexton. They played for a 20,000 total.
The opening Ból Fada score on Friday resulted in a good start for the hosts as Caoimhe Rafferty showed why she is a rising star in Armagh bowling when repeating her All-Ireland U16 success over Ellen Sexton with a last shot victory for a 2,700 total. In a cracking score the lead changed on numerous occasions and just twenty metres separated them with three to go. Caoimhe edged those vital last exchanges. The big doubles contest on Friday gave a handsome win to the visitors. For a 50,000 total, Armagh’s Bryan and Paul O’Reilly led by fifty metres after five against Cork’s Gary Daly and Gavin Twohig. Rossmore man, Twohig whose has an exemplary record in the north, hammered a ferocious seventh to take control and with Daly firing a massive tenth, a bowl of odds came in their favour. The O’Reilly’s finished strongly but the Corkmen held out. In a third score on Friday, Armagh’s Michael O’Neill defeated Cork’s Michael O’Leary, last shot, for 3,000.
Lowney’s Jewellers sponsored senior championship scores had a few significant mid-week results. Meghan Collins staked her claim at The Clubhouse on Tuesday evening with a hard-earned victory over Maria Nagle and in doing so threw group A wide open. Meghan, in her eighth season at the top level, had the edge in experience, but Rossscarbery’s Maria, following her fine victory over Claire O’Sullivan at Drinagh, had plenty of support too as they played away for a combined €3,300. Meghan Collins showed good resilience in recovering from a wayward opener to keep the score level to the ‘chips corner’ as indeed did the Rosscarbery challenger when she looked in trouble heading for ‘Clon cross’. Shot for shot it went past ‘O’Riordan’s’ with just twenty metres separating them at the brow of the hill. From here, the Crossbarry lady made a decisive move firing a superb drive all the way to sight at the last bend. It was enough for a big last shot victory. Meghan’s score with Claire O’Sullivan at Bauravilla will decide if this group will go to a three-way play-off. In group B, runner-up in the 2020 championship, Veronica O’Mahony overcame Emma Fitzpatrick in a thrilling duel in the rain at Beal na mBlath on Thursday. For a €700 total, Emma led for the first two, but little separated them at any point until Mallow contender, Veronica lined a huge cast to ‘Jim O’Mahony’s house’ which gave her a bowl of odds leeway at a vital juncture. Emma has a must win against Hannah Sexton at Shannonvale to stay in contention. In the intermediate championship at The Clubhouse, Gretta Cormican showed she still retains some of the old fire as she recovered from a bowl deficit to win her group C contest with Helen Whyte. Three super shots from ‘the chips’ to ‘Clon cross’ wiped out the Reenascreena player’s lead and set her on her way for a last shot victory. Helen, a champion too from decades past, has a score with Denise Murphy at Ballinacurra, to reignite her challenge.
Regional championship progressed too in Mid and West Cork divisions. The junior A championship in Mid Cork is always keenly contested and 2022 is no exception. Tom O’Donovan, Belgooly, staked his claim with an impressive quarterfinal win at Newcestown over Kieran Murphy. A tight contest in the early stages was turned decisively in O’Donovan’s favour when he fired an incredible bowl from ‘Allen’s lane’. It propelled him to a two-bowl lead by ‘O’Brien’s cross’ and when he followed with a screamer down the incline the semi-final spot as his. They played for a €1,600 total. At Castletownkenneigh on Sunday, David O’Mahony, Fivemilebridge, overcame John Shorten in another quarterfinal contest. For a €500 total, O’Mahony’s piledriver past the ‘old pub’ gave him winning odds here. Mid Cork also had some high-profile junior B action with Noel O’Donovan and Bryan O’Halloran advancing to semi-final rounds. O’Donovan defeated Kenneth Murphy by two bowls for a €2,000 total at Ballinacurra, Upton on Monday evening. On Saturday at Beal na mBlath, O’Halloran’s sixteen over the line had him with almost a bowl to spare on Brendan O’Neill. Their contest carried a €1,400 stake. Also, in Mid Cork championships in novice D, Brendan Hurley defeated Barry Collins, Michael Waugh defeated Mark Coleman and Fionn Dwyer defeated Kevin Browne all at Ballinacurra.
It was a busy weekend of championship action in the West Cork division. In the junior C grade at Kealkil, Drinagh’s Humphrey O’Leary came from a bowl down to defeat Diarmuid Hurley, Togher Cross. O’Leary lined two terrific shots on the straight to turn this one around. In the same grade at Durrus, Chris Murray, a county junior C winner in 2012, overcame Kieran Hourihane in the last shot for a €2,300 total. In the U18 championship on the Inch road, Dunmanway, Con O’Sullivan won from Oisin Murphy and Brian O’Driscoll won from Brian O’Sullivan. In the novice C championship at Drinagh, Schull’s Joseph O’Mahony defeated Martin Murphy, Togher Cross and in the same grade at Ballinacarriga, David Hourihane defeated Conor O’Connell. In the novice B championship at Durrus, Vincent Healy defeated Alan Keane in the last shot for €1,900. Paul Kingston won a cracking score with James O’Driscoll, Ahakeera, in the novice A championship at Drimoleague. For a €500 total it went to the last shot. Also, at Drimoleague in novice C, Paudie Crowley won from Conor O’Donovan. A couple of high-profile novice A scores at The Clubhouse and Derrinasafa resulted in wins for Sean O’Riordan and Ciaran Nyhan. O’Riordan on his home road, fell a bowl down to Chris Cronin’s monstrous fourth to sight at the ‘chips’, but closed the gap before snatching victory with a magnificent last shot from blind sight. Ciaran Nyhan’s win at Derrinasafa came after a mighty battle with Michael Carroll. This one went to the wire as well, Nyhan taking it in the final throw for an €1,100 stake. In other results from Derrinasafa, Eoin Murray defeated Morgan Hickey and Con Collins (jun) defeated Trevor Jagoe, both in Novice C, and Barry O’Donovan, Derrylahan, defeated David Deane in the novice D championship.
A contest of note took place at the Launder’s lane venue, London when Paddy O’Driscoll whose parents hail from The Glen area of Cork city played Callum O’Donovan who has strong Dunmanway connections in two scores in the boys U14 championship. A first under-age venture for London in a very long time, the boys had a win each and will play a decider at a later date.
An important event on Saturday next is the conclusion of the latest series of under-age tournaments organised by Ted Hegarty. The Phale Road, Ballineen, a venue long synonymous with the bowling game, will host no less than 10 finals featuring young bowl-players drawn from regions right around the county. Events start at 3.00pm with the boys U18 final; between James O’Sullivan v Danny O’Donovan v Noel O’Driscoll; Finals follow in quick succession in the order as follows; Boy’s U16, Cillian Kelleher v James Russell v Brian Horgan; Boy’s U14, Daniel Wilmot v Cathal Creedon; Boys U12, Ross O’Brien v Tom McCarthy; Boys U10, Ryan Crowley v Brian Murphy v Tadg O’Farrell; Boys U10 County competition final, Jack Allen (Mid) v Eoghan Kelly (Gaeltacht); Boy’s U8, Eoghan Kelly v Cillian Murray; U16/U18/junior ladies, Rosin O’Riordan v Ellen Sexton v Ailbhe O’Shea; Girls U14, Laura Sexton v Niamh O’Connell; Girls U12, Leila Foley v Danielle Crowley. Ted asks all finalists to note their scores.