Martin Coppinger deprived James O’Donovan of a hat-trick of Willie Whelton Cup wins with a last shot victory over the Bandon man at Grange on Sunday last. A hard-fought encounter hinged on a couple of misjudgments by O’Donovan at a crucial point mid-way through the first half of the score. A sweeping second shot gave him an eighty-metre advantage and he was in a good stand throwing over forty at ‘Holland’s wall’. His sixth was his undoing catching the left straight off the play with the result that his hard-won lead was gone. His seventh got little purchase either and Coppinger did not hesitate to take a commanding lead in the shots down and around the ‘school cross’. To his credit O’Donovan fought a splendid rear-guard battle firing massive tenth and eleventh shots on the rise to ‘Hodnett’s’ but the confidence in Coppinger’s bowling came to fore too as he zealously held his ground. A super throw to ‘White’s’ kept him seventy in front and, when his explosive power enabled him to take a winning break off ‘Barry’s wall’, he was within sight of the line. O’Donovan, game to the last, could only beat the finish line with his sixteenth and it was a mark that did not trouble Coppinger. They played for a €16,000 total. They meet again in a Mick Barry Cup qualifier at Ballincurrrig within the next few weeks.
Another high-profile senior tournament of long standing had a first-round fixture at Shannonvale. Seamus Sexton and Gary Daly engaged for a €10,600 total and it was Daly who had the better of it to ‘Desmond’s’ where he held the bones of a bowl lead after eight. European champion, Sexton, recovered ground in the shots past ‘Kingston’s’ and had it level by ‘Campbell’s pit’. It was nip and tuck over the last segment before Sexton finally won it in the last throw. Action in the lead-up to the King and Queen festival continued with a Jim O’Driscoll Cup qualifying score between Paul Buckley and Michael O’Donoghue. Going for a combined total of €3,600. Buckley’s eleven to the ‘big turn’ yielded a bowl of odds and he doubled his lead in the exchanges to ‘Din Tough’s’. In a Queen of the Roads qualifier at Castletownkenneigh, Rosscarbery’s Maria Nagle got the verdict over Veronica O’Mahony for a €300 total. In a score of good bowling, Maria avenged her championship defeat to the county runner-up as a tremendous drive at the ‘old pub’ gave her a bowl lead she held to the finish. U16 county winner, Laura Sexton is on course for a double after winning her U14 quarterfinal at Ballinacurra, Upton from a game North-East champion, Abby McDonnell.
Junior C and novice championship action made for another busy week as the build-up to Fenor continued. David Hegarty and John Anthony Murphy are the season’s latest county champions. South-West’s youthful challenger, Hegarty, may have stuttered at times in his mid-week junior C semi-final win at Ballinacurra, Upton, but he certainly found his groove in a pulsating decider with Denis Murphy at The Marsh Road on Saturday evening. Four of the finest opening shots seen on the road had him within a few metres of a two-bowl lead as they played past the ‘council gates’, and a runaway victory looked on the cards as Murphy struggled with form. Beal na mBlath man, Murphy has plenty of experience in the higher junior ranks and, while resident in Ballineen won a West Cork junior A title, and he stemmed the tide in splendid fashion with big seventh and eighth shots that cut the odds to under the bowl. Another big one followed and suddenly Hegarty was under pressure to hold his advantage which he did with a cracking tenth to sight at ‘the steps’. Murphy challenged again with a huge throw to ‘Thornhill cross’ but Hegarty responded again although the lead was again under the bowl by ‘Ballyhilty corner’. Here, Hegarty delivered one of the shots of the year, a stunning, sweeping drive from blind sight that ran on the centre to be marked down thirty metres past the ‘avenue gate’. It ended Murphy’s brave challenge and leaves the Lyre man within a score a play-off score of participation in the All-Ireland series in Fenor. At the after-score presentation, a minute’s silence was observed in the memory of Jerry Sheehy who had passed away during the week. Bol Chumann’s James O’Driscoll congratulated both players on an excellent final. The total stake at issue at The Marsh Road amounted to €20,500.
On to Firmount on Sunday evening where a dramatic finish to the county novice A final saw Mid Cork’s John Anthony Murphy become the first novice A champion. Michael Desmond from the Gaeltacht was the punters favourite and indeed led on most points. For a €6,100 stake, the Gaeltacht champion led by eighty metres by ‘Buckley’s cross’ but lost that advantage when Murphy, always in touch, fired a magnificent eighth shot to ‘McCarthy’s’. Desmond regained the lead and seemed set for victory with two to go. Murphy pulled it out of the fire with a big last shot that the Cill na Martra man missed by two metres. It’s Murphy now in against David Hegarty for a place in the Fenor All-Irelands. They meet at Terelton this weekend.
A superb closing sequence got David Hegarty his junior C final spot from a tense semi-final engagement with North-East’s Thomas O’Callaghan at Ballinacurra, Upton on Wednesday. A stakeless event saw both take four to the ‘main road’ at which point O’Callaghan shaded tips. O’Callaghan looked to make a break with a brilliant fifth to ‘Foley’s’ but Hegarty followed as they remained locked together. South-West man, Hegarty forged in front with a big eighth shot to ‘Perrots’ only for O’Callaghan to recover from a mistake and level again after ten. A score turning exchange came in the shots par ‘Innishannon cross’ where Hegarty hit a smashing effort to take a big lead. His twelfth to sight was equally as good and this brace finally saw off O’Callaghan’s challenge. Friday last was not a good day for West Cork’s champions as both Paul Kingston in novice B and Luke Cato in novice D lost out to the respective Mid and North Cork champions John A Murphy and Richard O’Connell. Shannonvale hosted the clash of Kingston and Murphy and a tight affair it proved. For a combined €3,280, Kingston made early headway rising almost a bowl after four but was pegged back to level by ‘Desmond’s cross’. Despite both firing super shots on the rise from this juncture, the standard dipped in the ensuing exchanges as both players left guilt edged chances go. Murphy had the better of it around the last bend by ‘Campbell’s’ where he held a vital thirty metres advantage. When Kingston missed the line, Murphy took this late opportunity, and the last shot victory propelled him to Sunday evening’s final with Michael Desmond. At the same time at Baile Mhuirne, North Cork’s Ruairi O’Connell held out for a last shot victory over West Cork’s Luke Cato. It was a tight score that carried a €500 stake. Cato took his only lead by the ‘council entrance’ before a fine finish by the North Cork champion set up a county final meeting with Gaeltacht’s Mattie McDonagh at Beal na mBlath on this Sunday August 28 at noon.
On Wednesday at Firmount, Mid Cork’s Novice B champion, Jack O’Callaghan, put a hesitant start behind him to defeat East Cork’s Sean O’Leary by a bowl of odds. For a €1,300 total, O’Leary did start in style lining three big openers that had him throwing odds on thirty metres. He lost ground badly with a poor seventh handing O’Callaghan a lead he would not regain. The Castletownkenneigh man hit an excellent twelfth that rose a bowl of odds and there was no way back for O’Leary after that.
Jack O’Callaghan will play Gaeltacht’s Darren Kelly in bowling’s first county novice B final this week at Bantry. Sean Paul McDonagh, the North East novice C representative continued an impressive campaign with a semi-final victory over Cork City’s highly-rated champion Alan Murphy of Ballygarvan. Ballincurrig hosted their set-to on Monday week, and it was Murphy who made the better start rising a bowl of odds in six fine shots to the ‘no-play lines’. It was short-lived for the City champion as McDonagh with a huge tenth took the lead and was soon a shot in front as two misplays by Murphy aided his charge. McDonagh extended his lead to two bowls by the ‘big turn’ and there was no way back for Murphy after that. Kealkil’s Con Collins continued his thrilling run in novice C with a Thursday evening semi-final victory by the narrowest of margins over Dan O’Donovan at Lyre. The Kealkil man emerged the winner from an unwieldy West Cork championship that had almost fifty starters and then eliminated East Cork’s Kevin Lennon in the county quarterfinals now found himself a bowl up after five throws on Mid Cork’s Dan who was also on a protracted run having come through a Mid Cork championship of similar numbers as well as winning the novice veteran in the division. O’Donovan rallied well before taking an unexpected lead with his second last by Ballinascarthy cross. Collins recovered to fire the winner past the last line as O’Donovan’s game effort fell just short. It’s McDonagh versus Collins for the county novice C championship this week at Castletownkenneigh. The stake at Lyre amounted to €2,200.
Regional championship centres on junior ladies and U12 and U14 girls competitions all of which go on the county rounds and which hold county championship status. In West Cork Shauna O’Driscoll of Drimoleague is West Cork U12 champion after a well-contested final with Amy O’Donovan at Bantry. A big finish by Shauna was decisive.