Full report from Dowtcha Boy and all the other weekends action
Martin Coppinger’s deftly pitched last shot from back of ‘Crowley’s bóithrin’ got the touch it deserved and beat the finish mark to give his partnership with Claire O’Sullivan a last shot victory over Killian Kingston and Silke Tulk as The Marsh Road bowling festival concluded on Sunday evening last. Although he fired the winning shot, the powerful Bantry man will be the first to admit that it was his Kealkil teammate, Claire, who was the unlikely star of this ‘Dowtcha Boy’, West Cork Distillers sponsored feature doubles as time and again she threw shots of prodigious length to hold on to or consolidate their hard-won early lead. Leamlara’s Kingston partnered with Holland’s leading lady, Silke, were in early trouble thanks to Coppinger’s monstrous third which yielded a big bowl lead, but they never gave up the ghost and were right in the mix had the Bantry man not beaten the line with their nineteenth shot of the score. It was not going well in the opening phase for the Kingston/Tulk combination as another rocket from Coppinger to the ‘council gates’ threatened to double the western pair’s lead. The Dutch lady showed her prowess with a splendid eighth at ‘Curragh hill’ to knock the bowl of odds and from there it was a battle of attrition. The leading pair saw their advantage reduced as Coppinger’s influence waned and it was O’Sullivan with an inch-perfect cast around the ‘step’s and again at ‘Thornhill cross’ who produced the big shots to keep them in front. Kingston’s fifteenth missed sight at ‘Ballyhilty’ and it was almost a bowl again after O’Sullivan hit a big effort past the novice line. Coppinger was lucky at the ‘avenue gate’ and Kingston hit a super shot to the last bend putting pressure once more on the leading duo. The Bantry man’s final cast deprived Tulk of a late chance to snatch victory. The played for a €25,200 total.
Gary Daly’s tour-de-force in Sunday’s opening score was as good as has been seen on the Marsh Road in a while and definitely the pick of the weekend’s performances. Aidan Murphy did little wrong, but Daly’s sixteens shots past the junior line yielded a bowl of odds victory for the Fermoy man. There was punting of Cheltenham proportions as the stake balanced out at a whopping €70,500 total and Daly certainly blazed a trail with three astonishing opening shots setting a marker for the day. Murphy did exceptionally well to hold off the bowl of odds with four good efforts, but the shot of odds came between them when the Mid Cork man sixth throw unluckily crossed right. Daly was relentless and had a chance of ‘the steps’ in eight but a miss here kept it at a bowl of odds in nine and ten. Both hit big shots to ‘Ballyhilty’ as Daly held his lead and crucially beat another fine cast from Murphy to the ‘avenue gate’. There was no catching the Fermoy man as he held his bowl of odds scoring the line three more. In complete contrast the second of Sunday’s contests did not carry a stake but it mattered not a whit as a wonderfully entertaining battle unfolded between Bantry’s Donal O’Riordan and Holland’s Jos Bert Aalbers. Jos Bert last played on The Marsh Road in 2015 when he was not overawed by some of our best seniors coming second to Gary Daly in a mini-international event and he showed why in a terrific tussle with his Bantry rival. O’Riordan has rarely played better firing six of the best from the start line at Ballyhilty to the rise on ‘Curragh Hill. Aalbers was fifty metres hind at this juncture but, to the astonishment of the large gathering, powered in front with a brilliant sequence to the ‘mart entrance’. O’Riordan dug himself out spectacularly with a ferocious last shot that Aalbers missed by a mere ten metres.
Dowtcha Boy’s opening score, shooting off just before eleven on Saturday morning, contained enough drama in its closing sequence to cater for an entire weekend. That a magnificent shot for shot duel between Armagh’s Paul O’Reilly and Cork’s John O’Rourke from Rylane should be decided by such an uncharacteristic sequence of errors as they closed on the finish line seemed incredible. From the off, for a €12,400 total, it was seismic. O’Reilly’s first lead was quickly wiped out by O’Rourke’s thundering brace past ‘West Cork Distillers’. The Armagh man responded in kind to that challenge with a ferocious four-in-row that not only regained the ascendancy but put a bowl of odds in his favour. O’Rourke fired two of the best from the ‘silvery gate’ to regain the lead and it stayed in the melting pot as they went level at ‘Ballyhilty’ within sight of the line. In the context of what had gone before it was an extraordinary climax. O’Reilly throwing for victory completely misjudged leaving O’Rourke with the chance of glory. Having proved his mettle in beating Ulster’s best at All-Ireland finals in northern territory it looked a formality but O’Rourke too miscalculated and it went to another shot. O’Reilly’s last was good from his stand but within O’Rourke’s compass. If it’s not your day, its not your day and the Rylane man’s well-played response cracked right off the white line handing Paul O’Reilly the most unlikely of victories. Back down there was another tumultuous turnaround as Tim Young came from seemingly certain defeat to deny Sean Donnelly an Ulster two-in-row. A hefty €23,000 was the wager at issue as Donnelly overcame early Young dominance to fire a rocket-like sixth and take a lead of sixty metres.
It got better for the 2020 junior A All-Ireland champion as a sweeping seventh put him a bowl ahead and he should perhaps have increased his margin as Young’s travails continued to ‘Curragh hill’. A super effort from Donnelly that Young, crucially, did well to follow, kept it to a bowl in favour of the northerner as they played past the ‘council gate’s’. Young kept the pressure up with a brilliant effort from here and his reward came with a bad misplay from Donnelly suddenly brought the lead back to manageable proportions. The recently crowned West Cork junior A champion from Bantry was sensing that this was his day, and he regained the lead with two well-taken deliveries to CH Marine. He then duly beat Donnelly’s fine last attempt for a much-savoured victory. In the third of Saturday’s north-south encounters, Fermoy’s Patrick Flood showed why he is a leading intermediate contender in the 2022 championship. Promoted on ability, he exhibited shots of the highest order if not absolute consistency in a one bowl win over Tyrone’s Eugene McVeigh for a €20,600 total. He was not at his best when throwing away early ascendancy with poor fifth and sixth throws but was aided in his recovery when McVeigh caught the grass at ‘Curragh hill’. The northerner responded to that setback with a super tenth and had a small chance of significant odds had he made sight at the ‘steps’ with his next. He didn’t quite make it and thereby lay the difference. A buoyant Flood regained the lead at this juncture and then fired the shot of the score to effectively quell McVeigh’s challenge. That twelfth cast of Flood’s ripped along the centre past ‘Thornhill cross’, was a perfect demonstration of the bowling capabilities of the North-East prodigy and it ensured a handsome victory from an opponent who has had the upper hand on previous Cork rivals.
‘Dowtcha Boy’, on its second hosting, was proclaimed a resounding success from a bowling perspective by organisers and sponsors and local CoAction were big beneficiaries too from an on-road raffle and stake proceeds.
A good number of scores were run off over the four-day holiday period as many regions progressed their championship programme. In Mid Cork novice C championship on St. Patrick’s Day, Barry Coughlan had a good win from the youthful, Conor O’Donovan of Belgooly while on the same day at Ballinacurra, Upton in the D championship, Shane Desmond defeated Paul Kelleher.
Caheragh’s Bill Barrett Cup attracts the big names from generations young and old. First round fixtures were played on St.Patrick’s Day and on the following Friday. In what was a repeat of a Lyre tournament score of a month ago, recently regraded, John Creedon and Christy Mullins renewed rivalry on the national holiday and produced a score of mixed bowling. Ballyvourney man Creedon avenged that defeat at the South-West venue availing of a slack finish by his Bantry rival to snatch a narrow late victory. Mullins was the punter’s favourite in the €3,200 total stake and held the lead for most of the score after coming ahead for the first time with his third. Creedon’s best in the early stages was a super fifth shot that briefly regained the fore bowl, but Mullins countered well to take a sixty-metre advantage to ‘Shiely’s’. Down past the novice line it looked an assured win for Mullins as his lead stretched to a hundred metres, but Creedon pulled it out of the fire with a big final brace. On Friday, Wayne Parkes showed the advantages of youthful exuberance in a comprehensive win over fellow South-West man, Gavin Twohig. Rossmore man, Twohig will also play in junior ranks next year having won two All-Irelands at intermediate level, the first of which came when his opponent on Friday was in his infancy. Current U18 champion, Parkes is a junior A of the highest standing and showed it in spades with a rocket-like fifth cast from ‘Sweetnam’s gate’ to the bridge. It was a shot that turned an even contest into one which the Clon youth held a big bowl of odds lead. A couple of more piledrivers in the bowling from ‘Reenrua cross’ put the score out of Twohig’s reach.
There was blanket cancellation of all fixtures in the West Cork division as a mark of respect to a family bereavement.