Of the six contenders in action in the weekend’s senior quarterfinals, Seamus Sexton was under the greatest scrutiny. The new European Champion’s exceptional performance in Germany was suitably celebrated but, in the eyes of many, a big showing on the home stage was now required to underline his championship credentials. In the cauldron that was Clondrohid on Sunday last when pitted against a player who had been there and done it, former two-time All-Ireland champion, Aidan Murphy, the Nadd native passed a monumental test. Although hind bowl after the opening throw, Sexton soon imposed himself on the contest rising seventy metres by Tierbeg cross and then taking full advantage of a few Murphy errors to rise a lead of almost two bowls in the shots away from the ‘Bell Inn’. He survived a stutter when a bad misplay with his thirteenth saw his margin halved. Murphy fought it to the finish and rose hopes with a big second last, but Sexton had a huge cushion and won by almost a bowl. They played for a total of €12,840. He will have to up it again when he takes on defending champion, Arthur McDonagh, in the semi-final at Whitechurch.
Martin Coppinger took a while to get going in his quarterfinal against Eamonn Bowen at Ballyvourney on Sunday morning. A low-key, stakeless score that had Coppinger an overwhelming favourite saw Bowen winning all the early shots and, with a better fourth, the Carrignavar man might have been further ahead than the sixty metres he held at ‘Scannell’s’. Coppinger, whose accuracy left him down early on, began to hit the ‘sop’ and lined a perfect sixth to take his first lead. A 300 metre cast to ‘the council entrance’ rose a bowl of odds and another in similar vein to ‘Breda’s’ doubled his margin. Bowen tried but to no avail and the Bantry man moves to a semi-final shoot-out with Michael Bohane at Templemartin.
The first of the weekend’s senior quarterfinals was played at Carrignavar on Saturday. All-Ireland champion, Arthur McDonagh made a winning first defence when defeating fellow North-East man, Gary Daly. The fixture carried a €4,300 total stake and was evenly contested to half-way. They went level to the ‘creamery cross’ in seven, but from there McDonagh dominated going two bowls in front by the three-quarter stage. Daly pegged it back, but McDonagh won comfortably enough.
After a week packed with championship action the stage is set for the intermediate and junior A finals at Ballincurrig. The second intermediate semi-final at Bweeng on Saturday saw Patrick Flood come home a bowl of odds winner from City’s Wayne Calnan. Underdog, Calnan, led for the first three before Flood, bowling with great power got a sequence going to rise a bowl of odds after seven. The North-East youth will carry the favourite’s tag to this weekend’s county final at Ballincurrig when he takes on Donal O’Riordan. In junior A it’s John Creedon of the Gaeltacht up against Tim McDonagh (jun) (North East) also at Ballincurrig. Creedon was in battling form at The Clubhouse on Friday evening as he sent another hot favourite out of the championship. Very much the underdog as he was against Carbery’s David Shannon at Bantry a fortnight ago, the former senior contender gave a splendid exhibition in ousting Mid Cork’s excellent champion, the youthful Tom O’Donovan from Belgooly. Early indicators that it may not be O’Donovan’s evening came when his opening shot, not his most accurate, suffered an accidental block, but he did recover superbly even after a poor second, to make it out ‘O’Brien corner’ in four, level with his Ballyvourney rival. After both fired big fifth shots to ‘Dineen’s lane’, O’Donovan was wayward again in the shots to ‘Clon cross’ and Creedon needed no second bidding to rise big odds with a super seventh. The shot that really defined Creedon’s evening came with a beautifully pitched ninth from blind sight at ‘Murray’s lane’. Inch perfect, it ran all the way to the bend by ‘O’Riordan’s’ and gave him a bowl of odds leeway. O’Donovan tried valiantly and was a shade unlucky with a mighty effort past the ‘school’, but Creedon was not for turning and increased his odds with a stirring reply. The Gaeltacht man’s winning margin was well over the bowl and the stake at issue amounted to €2,700. The second semi at Kilcorney on Sunday morning was a galling experience for West Cork champion, Denis O’Driscoll. Hot favourite against North-East’s Tim McDonagh, the Drimoleague man fully justified his ranking going almost a bowl up in seven big shots to the ‘bridge’ and was still in control throwing odds on fifteen metres when he suffered a foot injury throwing his eleventh. On road treatment did not alleviate his difficulties and his championship hopes ended in futile attempts to continue. Tim McDonagh recovered from a slack start and pressed O’Driscoll throughout. He will provide a stern test for John Creedon in the final at Ballincurrig.
In women’s senior Hannah Sexton to a big step to a county senior title in her debut year with a one bowl victory over Meghan Collins in the first of the semi-finals at Ballincurrig on Thursday last. In a competitive joust, played inward, that carried an €840 stake, Meghan started in superb fashion rising close to a bowl with a big opening shot. Hannah extricated herself with a smashing third to ‘the sycamores’ and the ascendancy swung her way when she followed with an equally good fourth. Two misplays at the ‘big turn’ were to cost Meghan a bowl of odds, but the contest stayed fiercely competitive as both hit some powerful shots on the ‘long straight’ and on to the ‘creamery green’. Timoleague challenger Hannah showed steel in holding her lead and, unbeaten now in county championship adult grades, will carry the mantle of favouritism to the up coming final where she will meet either Maria Nagle or Veronica O’Mahony.
In the first of the women’s intermediate quarterfinals at Templemartin, Juliette Murphy availed of a slack start by Louise Daly to effect a one bowl win. Going for a €1,300 total, Juliette rose substantial odds in the shots to ‘Slynne’s corner’ and it stood her in good stead when Louise found her best form on the rise from ‘O’Riordan’s’. In another quarterfinal at Clondrohid North Cork’s Denise Murphy got the better of Louise Collins.
In a preliminary round junior B contest at Lyre on Saturday, Mid Cork’s Ger O’Driscoll got over a tough hurdle when defeating London representative Padraig Nugent by a bowl of odds. Missing the ‘crossover’ with his tenth was Nugent’s undoing and O’Driscoll quickly rose his bowl of odds winning margin. They played for a total of €1,100. North Cork’s Mark Burke, also involved in junior veteran, is next up for O’Driscoll in the quarterfinals at Terelton. The junior veteran county round contest at Clondrohid on Wednesday resulted in a win for Burke from Carbery’s J C Desmond. This was a good contest played for a €1,800 total. Burke rose a bowl with four to go and it was his eventual winning margin. He plays John Shorten, the Mid Cork champion, in the quarterfinal round at Terelton.
U18 inter-regional rounds are ongoing. At Templemartin West Cork’s Mark Dean advanced to the semi-final with victory over East Cork’s Dylan Beecher. North East’s Patrick O’Donnell is next up for Deane in the semi-final. Also, in U18, European Champion, Rachel Kingston, the West Cork champion, advanced to the county semi-final with a hard-earned win South-West’s Ellen Sexton.
In regional action, West Cork’s junior B championship has thrown up some lively encounters. A round-robin series involving three contenders eliminates one before a final play-off. Peter Murray and John Young were first into the fray at Derrinasafa with Murray edging that one to gain the first winner’s point. Young rebounded in splendid style with a win over last year’s champion, Adrian Buttimer at Drimoleague on Monday week. Playing on the inward route for a €5,000 total, the Drinagh man recovered from an early bowl of odds deficit to level it at the no-play lines. Young prevailed in the final segment. The last of the round-robins at Drinagh on Thursday was a must win for Buttimer and he came close enough after misplays with his fourth and sixth left him facing a two-bowl deficit. Playing out from the village for a €2,500 total, Peter Murray’s superb third shot seemed to set him on his way for an untroubled evening, but Buttimer staged a fine rally closing the gap to thirty metres at the ‘new line’ cross with four to go. Buttimer’s rally stalled when his next went right and Murray carried the day with a good last shot win. Peter Murray and John Young will now contest the West Cork junior B final on the inward route at Durrus. Humphrey O’Leary is junior veteran champion in West Cork after a thrilling last shot win over Christy Mullins at Kealkil. A competitive encounter looked like going Mullins’ way when holding handy odds facing the finish. However, his last missed the target and O’Leary with a splendid final effort took his chance and the cup to Driminidy. Humphrey’s next engagement is a county quarterfinal shoot-out with East Cork’s Paul O’Brien at Jagoe’s Mills. Bantry bowling club are efficient hosts for the West Cork U12 championship and a big entry is now whittled down to two. Last Tuesday’s quarterfinals saw Joey Sheehan come out on top against Charlie O’Neill; Conor Hourihane win from Tadg O’Farrell; Patrick Crowley win from Cian O’Callaghan and Oisin Murray take the verdict from Jack Coakley. Semi-final results saw wins for Patrick Crowley and Oisin Murray from Joey Sheehan and Conor Hourihane respectively.
John Shorten is once again Mid Cork junior veteran champion. His long-time rival, Dan O’Halloran, was once more in the opposing corner as they played away for a €1,000 total. Both have had success in the over 50’s category, O’Halloran a county champion in 2015 and Shorten All-Ireland winner in 2019 and it was the latter who made the better start rising a bowl of odds with three big opening shots. Thing didn’t improve much for O’Halloran on this occasion and, when Shorten stretched away to a two bowl lead by Kinneigh old pub, it was too much to retrieve. John Shorten will play North Cork’s Mark Burke in the county quarterfinal at Terelton. In Mid novice D at Templemartin, Mick O’Callaghan defeated Denis Mangan, by almost a bowl of odds. In novice C at Ballinacurra, Upton, Fionn Dwyer defeated Michael Desmond, last shot, for €2,300. In the Mid U16 final at Jagoe’s Mills, Daniel Wilmot won from Rhys Murphy.
In the South-West novice veteran section B play-off at The Pike, Denis O’Donovan of Fisher’s Cross defeated Ger Hegarty, Lyre, in the last shot of a good score played for a €2,700 total. In the novice D quarterfinal also played at The Pike, Alan Murphy defeated Shane McCarthy by two bowls for €640. At Clondrohid in the Gaeltacht novice A final, Michael Desmond defeated Freddie Scannell, two bowls, for €500.