September is King of the Roads month, and the opening salvoes were thrown at host venue, Ballincurrig, on Sunday last where a four score programme narrowed down the contenders for next month’s big prize. The Mick Barry Cup qualifying competition will provide two to contest with last year’s winner, David Murphy, All-Ireland champion, Thomas Mackle and the yet to be announced German and Dutch champions. Seamus O’Tuama and his team had ten from the game’s premier grade in attendance on Sunday and some thrilling fare ensued in the opening contest where Aidan Murphy came from well back to record a sensational last victory over Martin Coppinger and Michael Harrington. The Murphy-Coppinger side of things carried a €7,800 total stake but it was underdog, Harrington who held sway at the half-way point with Murphy, whose fifth went awry, trailing by seventy metres. After the next exchanges Murphy trailed both Coppinger and Harrington by almost a bowl but the leading men failed to take advantage of a poor fifteenth and the score was back in the melting pot with all three facing the line after seventeen throws each. From the hindmost tip, Murphy put down an exceptional last shot and it won the day when first Coppinger with brave attempt and then, Harrington, who led to that point, both fell short. Next up was the single hand duel between Arthur McDonagh and Ulster’s Colm Rafferty. A stakeless event saw McDonagh dominate with his ten to the ‘big turn’ giving him a two-bowl lead. Rafferty’s bowling on the day matched that of the earlier score but McDonagh’s fifteen over the line was unbeatable. Another three-way followed and here John O’Rourke, Pa Flood and Killian Kingston took issue for a combined (€1,450 x3) plus €6,100 (Flood-Kingston). John O’Rourke choose this contest to make a strong case for his senior credentials and started in a blaze with big opening shots taking him to the ‘green’ in three. Kingston was desperately unlucky with his second and, despite big ninth and tenth shots, fell two bowls adrift of O’Rourke who hit the ‘big turn’ in eleven. Flood, in second place, kept up a brave challenge but, when his fourteenth slashed off the play, O’Rourke held his bowl of odds lead and crowned a fine performance with his seventeenth over the line. Last of the day saw Gary Daly and James O’Donovan renew acquaintance. It produced a similar result to their Willie Whelton Cup score of a month ago with Daly taking the spoils this time for a €6,000 total. A better start had Daly a bowl up at ‘the lines’ and he extended that to almost two at the big turn. O’Donovan got little going on this occasion leaving the Fermoy man a convincing winner. Following Saturday’s action, the semi-final line-up for the Mick Barry Cup now reads, John O’Rourke v Gary Daly and Aidan Murphy v Arthur McDonagh. There was a thrilling Queen of the Roads qualifier at Drinagh on Sunday morning. Hannah Cronin and Megan Collins marked their return to action with a superb contest that Megan led for much of the way. Hannah had the final say putting in a big finish to win in the last shot.
The first of the novice county finals went ahead at Derrinasafa on Sunday morning and, in keeping with many that preceded it, produced a score of excellent bowling that kept the large crowd enthralled to the final shots. David Desmond and Gavin Crowley fought it to a standstill before the Mid Cork champion took the laurels in the last shot. Crowley, the Carbery representative from Bauravilla, had early momentum taking all three opening shots and leading by thirty metres at the end of the wall. His fifth and sixth were pin straight and Desmond looked in trouble when his sixth fell left at ‘Fax’s bridge’. The former Kilbrittain man’s response defined his day. He held off what looked like a bowl of odds deficit with a super seventh and then took a first-time lead with another well-delivered effort around ‘Nattie’s corner’. Unbowed, Crowley rebounded with a brilliant ninth which restored the lead and then followed a big tenth of Desmond’s to stay in front. Desmond then fired the shot of the day a sublime eleventh to sight at ‘darkwood turn’ and it swung the contest his way when Crowley’s well-tracked response drifted right short of sight. The Carbery champion fired a great effort to ‘Walshe’s lane’ but Desmond’s reply escaped from a tight left-hand play and he still held significant odds. Crowley tried again but Desmond’s fifteenth was a killer and it set him up for a last shot win. Bol Chumann’s James O’Driscoll complimented both finalists on their performance.
The running off of these junior C and novice championships to county final stage and within a limited timeframe, has tested the resources of clubs, administrative personnel and the patience and perseverance of fixtures secretary, Richie Fitzgerald. Yet the value of the new format was never better encapsulated than in a magnificent novice C semi-final played before a huge crowd at Clondrohid on Tuesday evening. David Desmond of Bandon, the Mid Cork champion, and Kevin O’Donoghue, Bweeng, representing North Cork, were the protagonists and both carried sizable support as evidenced in the €5,400 total stake the contest went for. Evenly matched, the pair produced a ding-dong thriller filled with bowling of a high order. Desmond beat big shots to stay in front for the first five before O’Donoghue’s ‘jet’ to the ‘black house’ gave him his first lead. O’Donoghue then held sway in top-class exchanges past ‘The Bell Inn’ before Desmond came in front again after ten. Crucially, Desmond made better ‘sight’ at ‘Con Moore’s corner’ but, when he missed the line with his fifteenth, just twenty metres separated them for the last shots. O’Donoghue put down a big one, but Desmond kept his cool and beat a testing tip to take the spoils from a score that hardly deserved a loser. Back the road, here, Inchigeela’s Joe Creedon won in the last shot from Micheal O’Céallachain for a €2,000 total. Almost matching it on the following evening at the same Gaeltacht venue, the county novice D semi-final was another rip-roaring encounter again with North and Mid champions going toe to toe. The victory this time went to the North Cork division as Paul Twomey from Clondrohid came at the death to deny a gallant Donnacha O’Donovan by ten metres. For a €3,700 total, Twomey beat a monstrous fourth of O’Donovan’s to ‘Tierbeg cross’ but missed by five metres another big one to hand O’Donovan his first lead. Twomey came back in front before O’Donovan’s piledriver to ‘Geoff’s lane’ regained the fore bowl for Mid Cork. O’Donovan continued to lead to the final shots but then Twomey put down the proverbial ‘miler’ and it proved a winner when the Mid Cork champion’s reply narrowly missed its target. Twomey and City’s Mick O’Driscoll, Blarney, who has also enjoyed a barnstorming run on the other side of the draw, meet in the county final this week at Beal namBlath. Back Clondrohid on Wednesday, Anthony Crowley defeated Brian Horgan, last shot, for €2,900.
Thursday evening’s action centered on the novice A semi-finals at Castletownkenneigh and Firmount. Wins for West Cork’s Brian O’Driscoll from Drimoleague and North-East’s trailblazer, Michael Ahern, from Fermoy, has set up an intriguing final this week at Jagoe’s Mills. East Cork’s highly rated, Wayne Kingston, a county junior B champion in 2011, did not bring his best game to the Mid Cork venue for his penultimate round clash with O’Driscoll. A poor opener was capitalized on by the West Cork champion who rose the bones of a bowl of odds, and it was an uphill battle from there. O’Driscoll maintained his rich vein of form of recent months and hit the ‘old pub’ in seven quality shots. Kingston fired a good effort at this juncture, but he was holding off a two-bowl deficit. There was no stopping O’Driscoll on the evening as he increased his odds in the subsequent exchanges. The stake at issue amounted to €8,000. A big finish got Michael Ahern home in his semi-final tussle with City’s Mark Long. This was an even contest for much of the way with Long’s big sixth looking like giving him a handy lead. Ahern, ahead marginally, responded with a superb effort to ‘Murphy’s cross’ and it was the catalyst for a closing blitz that would have seen off most opponents. Long gamely stayed in touch until three from the top drawer by Fermoy man, Ahern, put well over a bowl of odds between them. They played for a €2,300 total. In a return score at Firmount, Stephen Cahill defeated Anthony Cody, last shot, for €1,600. In the junior C semi-final at Beal na Morrive on Saturday City’s Jimmy Quilligan upset the form book with a last shot win over competition favourite Willie O’Donnell. Their contest carried a €2,300 total stake. Quilligan will play either Shane Collins or John Anthony Murphy in the junior C final.
Elsewhere in county round action, newly crowned All-Ireland U18 champion, Ellen Sexton is carrying the South-West banner, in the junior lady’s championship. A second county is not beyond the capabilities of the talented Timoleague teenager after she survived a stern preliminary round test at Ballinacurra, Upton, provided by North East’s rising star, Sonia Ahern. Ellen’s good start was important in this victory, and she now faces another tough assignment in the quarterfinals when she comes up against the Carbery champion, Triona Murphy or Aisling Crowley. In a junior ladies quarterfinal at Ballyvourney, North Cork’s Rachel Lucey won from West Cork’s Eirinn O’Donovan.
Still on county action, the grade for the games elder statesmen is progressing. The vintage (over 60’s) section C category has two scores at Castletownkenneigh on Monday. Con O’Donovan won from Connie Lehane in the first and Batty Foley defeated Michael Brennan in the second. In vintage B group A at Grange on Wednesday, Michael Harrington, Kilgarriffe, defeated Donal Desmond, Kilbrittain.
In regional action, Aisling O’Callaghan, formerly of Mid Cork but currently domiciled close to Fenor, Co, Waterford, is the East Cork/West Waterford regional junior A winner after a well-contested three-way play-off at Ballincurrig. Joanne Carroll of the Killea Club in Waterford and Christina Desmond, European boxing silver-medallist, kept it competitive right to the end.