EXTENSIVE LIST FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.
Bowling’s festive season fixture list is extensive. A headliner once again is the Castletownbere two-day event on December 28th/29th which includes the annual RNLI/Cancer Connect fund-raiser. Topping the bill on Thursday is the re-match of international teammates Seamus Sexton and Michael Bohane. Their sporting rivalry is intense, Bohane winning their county final set-to in 2022 but losing out to his North Cork adversary in their most recent clash at Lyre. Both have produced big figures at the Castletownkenneigh international trials while Sexton has the confidence of his recent Eamonn Bowen Memorial victory to call on. It is but one of four on a day that also has Tim Young v Tommy O’Sullivan and Christy Mullins v Denis Wilmot on the card. Friday’s scores at Castletownbere also feature a senior match-up with Aidan Murphy and Arthur McDonagh going head-to-head. Opening the programme on Friday is the attractive clash of David Shannon and Noel O’Donovan.
Clashing with Castletownbere on Friday but guaranteed a high level of interest given its long association with the club is the Mikie Hourihane Cup at Bauravilla. A qualifier here on December 29th has J C Desmond, Kevin Minihane and Diarmuid Hurley in opposition. The Mid Cork division has an exceptionally large line-up over the Christmas-New Year period. At Ballinacurra, Upton the annual winter nine-man junior tournament takes precedent with scores on Christmas Eve, St. Stephen’s Day and Wed the 27th. Included in the mix here are 2023 junior B county winner, Noel O’Regan, City’s Trevor O’Meara and East Cork’s Mick Hurley. Not to be outdone, Templemartin, Jagoe’s Mills, Castletownkenneigh, and Beal na mBlath have fixtures right through the ten-day period with the latter club running three-way scores on four days.
The Grange challenge is a St. Stephen’s Day staple in the South-West division. This year, the clash of Tommy O’Sullivan and Paul Buckley fills the bill. Shannonvale, Lyre, Grange, Timoleague, Fisher’s Cross and Ballygurteen where the junior A tournament semi-final between Jimmy O’Driscoll and Cian Boyle on Christmas Eve is an attractive clash, all have a range of scores on different dates. The West Cork division are no less busy. Opening the festive season here are Togher Cross who have a four-score line up on Christmas Eve that includes enticing match-ups such as Johnny O’Driscoll v Mick Hurley and Conor Lucey v David Horgan. Drinagh follow on St. Stephen’s Day, Drimoleague on Wednesday 27th, The Clubhouse on Saturday the 30th, Derrinasafa on New Year’s Eve and Durrus on January 6th.
Further afield, Curraheen and The Bog Road will be busy venues in the City division while the ever popular Carrignavar Christmas team tournament will take centre stage in the North East division. Here too, Ballyhooley will have scores on the 24th and 26th. There is plenty of action too in the North Cork division with Ballinagree, Beal na Morrive and Firmount where City’s James O’Sullivan and Coachford’s David Hubbard are in opposition on the 30th, all hosting scores. Patrons are advised to check Facebook and What’s App messages for any late cancellations or changes to listings.
DEMPSEY IN TIM WHITE CUP FINAL.
Darragh Dempsey overcame a mid-score wobble to see off the challenge of Noel O’Donovan at Rosscarbery. Their Sunday Tim White Cup semi-final clash drew a good crowd to the Carbery venue, but the bowling was mixed at times before the youthful Skibb exponent took charge in the bowling to Cahermore cross. Starting at the bridge, O’Donovan was a shade unlucky to see his well-drilled opener cross right. Dempsey took immediate advantage and looked to take a good lead beyond the ‘priest’s house’ before a misplay here allowed O’Donovan to close the gap. The Crossbarry man, who had staged a remarkable comeback in his quarterfinal contest against Noel O’Regan, then took an unexpected lead with tightly cut eighth shot to ‘Barry’s cross’. It was short-lived however as Dempsey put his travails around the bends behind him to deliver two excellent efforts up to and beyond ‘De Barra Lodge’. From a leading position, O’Donovan quickly found himself a bowl of odds down and his luck deserted him again in the shots to the no-play lines at which point Dempsey had doubled his lead. With the score going to the senior line at ‘Harte’s’, all was not lost, and O’Donovan did make a valiant effort to retrieve the situation with a superb effort away from the re-start. It put a big dent in Dempsey’s lead but again the Crossbarry man’s follow-up did not match his previous effort and the Carbery man quickly restored his earlier advantage. He will play either David Shannon or Gavin Twohig in the White Cup decider. The total stake at issue in Rosscarbery amounted to €4,400.
ADVANTAGE MURPHY IN BATTLE FOR EUROPEAN SPOT.
Denise Murphy took a step towards inclusion in Bol Chumann’s senior ladies panel when she won the Road play-off with Rachel Desmond at Coolea on Saturday. The pair had tied on points when the international trials were completed in October. It was competitive at Ballyvourney and will be more so at Castletownkenneigh in the New Year when they compete in the Dutch Moors and German Loft disciplines. Rachel has ground to make up but is capable of overhauling her Ballinagree rival’s advantage.
Still in the Gaeltacht at Inchigeela on Saturday, a desperately tight finish saw Joe Madden win by a metre from Darren Kelly for a €2,700 total while a return double had Jim O’Leary and Finbarr Buckley, two bowls too good for the Desmond’s Micheal and Shane for a combined €2,000. In the regional novice E competition, Ron Lynch defeated Kevin Healy at Balile Bhuirne.
Two good scores at Ballinagree on Saturday, saw Martin Kelleher defeat John Mac Sullivan by the narrowest of margins for a €2,200 total. In a cracking contest Mac Sullivan led early before Kelleher overhauled the deficit. Mallow exponent, Kelleher just stayed in front and beat a good last shot by two metres. Kevin Manning prevented a Kelleher double in the return when he got the better of 2022 youths international, Jamie. Macroom man, Manning, won by a bowl for €2,240.
There was a double for the Horgan’s Dunmanway at Jagoe’s Mills on Saturday. Brian got the better of Declan O’Donovan (K) for a €1,000 total while David accounted for Michael John O’Brien for €500. In scores at Ballyhooley on Saturday, Timmy Murphy defeated Sean Paul McDonagh by a bowl for €1,600 and Vincent O’Leary won from Jeremy Downey, two bowls, for €400. Grenagh’s Liam Walsh was on the winning trail at City venue Templemichael. A double was secured over East Cork’s Andrew O’Leary, last shot, in the opener and a bowl of odds in the return. Both scores carried €2,000 stakes. North Cork’s Damien Burns finished strongly against Carbery’s Colm Crowley at Derrinasafa. For a €900 total, Crowley held sway to ‘Nattie’s’ before three big ones from Burns levelled matters. Rusheen man, Burns was steadier over the closing segment from ‘Walsh’s lane’ and won by the fore bowl. In North Cork scores at Firmount saw wins for Ross Lynch and Will Harrington. In the outward contest, Lynch led all the way in his joust with Pat Fitzgibbon, rising a bowl of odds after three and holding the advantage to the finish. Will Harrington had a similar margin of victory over Adrian O’Connor in the return contest. Both were tournament contests and carried combined stakes of €700. In the North East division, Carrignavar held the opening rounds of their Christmas team and doubles tournaments.
R.I.P FINBARR CASEY.
The City division mourned the passing of Finbarr Casey, Fairhill, recently. A junior player of repute and a life-long follower of bowling, Finbarr’s heyday was in the late fifties and sixties. He brought a big City following to Enniskeane in 1958 when he contested the inaugural county junior A final against Brendan O’Donovan. Courtmacsherry man, Brendan, father of 1986 senior All-Ireland winner, Declan and grandfather of current senior, James, was the victor on the day, his superior accuracy overcoming the greater power of Finbarr who put up a great battle. An uncle of the Gould family, Finbarr continued playing at a high level for many years. Rest in Peace.
HOW CAN WE REJUVENATE THE JUNIOR GRADES.
Registrar, Billy McAuliffe, thanked regional representatives for giving of their time in attending grading meetings both at divisional level and at the overall forum in Bandon in late November. All regions and outer regions were discussed, and grades were finalised for 2024. He said he hoped to have the official register ready for early in the New Year. While there is general satisfaction that all is in readiness for the new season the stark fact is that regional junior grades which provide the premier championships for divisions are being decimated by the downward spiral evident within the system. Novice A, B, C, D, and now E are the favoured rankings for the vast majority of affiliated players. The easy option of removing junior championships from regional administration and playing them on a countywide basis as with senior and intermediate further devalues the role regions play and undermines the excellent work being done to ensure numbers affiliating have more than held up and even increased in many areas post Covid. Junior championships particularly junior A have been one of the great mainstays of bowling for almost seventy years with champions of different generations still revered in the game’s annals. The seismic shift necessary to make regional junior championships more viable competitively, a move that would include the realignment of grades rather than individual players, will not be easily attained given the entrenched mindsets currently prevailing. From a promotional perspective such a move would certainly rejuvenate regional championships, and tournaments also, but the wishes of the majority will have to be respected and adhered to. Still, it may be a conversation worth having.