IT'S ONLY JANUARY BUT CHAMPIONSHIP DREAMS ALREADY DASHED IN NOVICE C
With the late postponement of the Lyre senior final, the spotlight fell on a couple of junior and intermediate club scores as punters sought pointers to form for bigger events later in the year. Last weekend also marked the start-up of a championship season that will run to mid-October with regions West and North particularly active in getting novice grades underway. Templemartin attracted a good gathering on Sunday for the clash of Conor Creedon, Ballyvourney, and Ger Connolly, Shannonvale. Operating in junior B for the coming year both were buoyed by recent successes, Creedon in the Johnny O’Driscoll Cup at Clondrohid and Connolly at Castletownbere and in the Grange tournament final. Both too are well able for the cut and thrust of a big-stake engagement and carried good support in the €4,800 total stake. Connolly made the better start whipping away a splendid opener that Creedon did well to come within twenty metres of. The Shannnonvale man kept it going and four more had him sight around ‘Slynne’s corner’ holding handy odds as Creedon missed with his fifth. Connolly rose the bowl of odds with his next but it was short lived as a couple of errors and Creedon’s monstrous eighth brought the Gaeltacht man in front for the first time. Creedon than hit a purple patch going a shot up himself with three big ones to the ‘school-house cross’. Connolly made inroads with a huge cast to the ‘stonefield bend’ and was unlucky with another effort to the ‘monument’, but Creedon stayed close enough, held his odds and took the spoils with a deserved one bowl victory. There was a double for the Gaeltacht camp when Cill na Martra’s Anthony Lynch defeated Kinsale’s Declan O’Donovan in the return, one bowl, for €2,000.
Intermediates Pascal Buckley and Tommy O’Sullivan engaged at Ballygurteen on Saturday. Crossbarry man, Buckley, a two-time championship finalist, had the edge in experience in this one and it showed in a one bowl victory over the grades newest inclusion. In mixed bowling both ‘made’ sight at the first bend in three, Buckley shading tips, and he still held sway in the next exchanges to the ‘women’s lane’. O’Sullivan, All-Ireland U16 winner in 2020, carried power a plenty but had difficulty getting a smooth run and lost further ground in the shots to ‘Oakmount avenue’. Buckley, on the other hand, fired two big ones to the corner by ‘O’Donovan’s’ at which point his lead amounted to a bowl of odds. It would be his winning margin at the end. They played for a total of €2,400 with Buckley the punters favourite.
The 2022 vintage (over 60’s) section C final went off as scheduled at Terelton on Saturday. From sixty-four starters in nine divisions around the county the last two standing were Carrignavar’s loyal clubman, Pat Scanlon, and long-time campaigner from Five Mile Bridge, Jerome O’Mahony. Although the conditions were not as severe at the Gaeltacht venue as for the A final between Martin Connolly and Ted Hegarty on Jan 7, it was still a damp day with a wet road necessitating caution. It mattered not a whit as the pair delivered a cracking contest that stayed in the melting pot to the end. That Scanlon led from the start and won by a bowl of odds does not reflect the closeness or quality of the exchanges. The Carrignavar man made a super start going sight at ‘Callanan’s’ in two and he increased his fifty-metre lead with another big one to ‘Patterson’s’. Both excelled with their fifth an d sixth shots, O’Mahony just holding off the bowl deficit when beating a monstrous effort of Scanlon’s. After beating another big one from his opponent, O’Mahony had to concede the bowl as Scanlon’s relentless showing had him at the ‘garage’ in seven, bowling that was on a par with their junior counterparts. O’Mahony’s perseverance saw him knock the bowl after nine but Scanlon regained it with a big cast to the novice line. It was back to sixty metres after the Fivemilebridge man hit a fine effort to ‘O’Riordan’s’, but the rough road caught him with his follow-up and Pat Scanlon offered no more chances with a faultless closing sequence the ensured the Fachtna Hayes Cup goes back to the North-East division for the second year running. Grenagh’s Joe Wash was the 2021 winner at Jagoe’s Mills. Scanlon-O’Mahony carried a €1,200 total stake and the section C winner will now take on A winner, Martin Connolly and B winner (Donal Harnedy or Michéal O’Ceallacháin) in the forthcoming overall 2022 vintage final.
The New Year has barely turned but for some, championship hopes for 2023 have been banished by first round defeats. Big numbers necessitate early starts and West and North Cork divisions lost no time in getting the lower novice grades up and running. Hard hit in West Cork are the Murphy’s Togher Cross usually involved at the business end of championships in the region but now eliminated having been at the wrong end of two thrilling novice C encounters at Bantry and Ardcahan. The 2023 West Cork novice C championship opened with a super contest between two of the grades most likely contenders at Bantry on Saturday. Danny O’Donovan, Dunmanway and Martin Murphy, Togher Cross, fought it shot for shot, both in the ascendancy at different stages. O’Donovan fired a massive second last and then beat a big final effort from Murphy to snatch the victory. They played for a total of €1,200. Martin’s father, John went two bowls down to Kieran O’Brien in the same grade at Ardcahan on Sunday but rallied to level facing the line. Murphy put down what looked a sure fire winner only for O’Brien to rise to the occasion and beat it by less than a metre.
Also, at Ardcahan in C, home clubman, Brian Murray, won by a bowl from Drinagh’s Eoin Hurley for €1,800. Three championship scores went ahead at Derrinasafa. Here in novice C, Stephen O’Farrell won from Conor O’Connell and Garoid Cronin won from Trevor Jagoe. In the D grade, Durrus man, Morgan Hickey advanced at the expense of Alan Crowley. Another long-time campaigner survived the first round cut at The Clubhouse when Barry O’Donovan won his novice C first rounder with Daniel Hayes. Two more at Ballinacarriga, both in novice C, saw Kealkil’s Graham O’Sullivan win from Derick Jagoe and David Hourihane overcome Conor Hegarty. North Cork were busy too with two novice D scores in Kilcorney. Here, Anthony Bradley won from Barry Twomey and Denis Murphy made it through from his tussle with Paul Walsh. At Ballinagree in novice D, Paul O’Sullivan defeated Joe Murphy, last shot, for €280.
In further club scores Castletownkenneigh bowlers had a mixed day on their Saturday visit to Curraheen. It the tournament contest, Carrigaline’s Thomas O’Donovan made no errors in a convincing win over county novice B finalist Jack O’Callaghan. For a €900 total, they were even for the first four but it all changed in the shots to the ‘bridge’. A couple of misplays here including a ‘dead bowl’ cost the Castletown man and with O’Donovan in flying form there was no way back. Ger O’Leary got the visitors on the winning trail with a win over Jeremy Downey in the second score, one bowl, for €920 before Downey rebounded with a last shot victory over Kevin Walsh in the final contest of the day. At Ballincurrig there was a double for the Butlers as Pa defeated Michael Wall in the last shot for €700 and Paul got the better of Michael O’Leary, last shot, for €1,600. At Whitechurch, Andrew O’Leary defeated Thomas Boyle, last shot, for €3,600 and Ryan Buckley defeated Tom Connolly, last shot, for €1,000. In a club score at Beal na Morrive, Mid Cork’s Mark Courtney defeated county novice D winner, Ruairi O’Connell, last shot, for €2,800 and back here, William Harrington defeated Michael Desmond, last shot, for €2,240.
During the past week the bowling community mourned the passing of two long-time servants of the game. Leo O’Neill, Minanes, was part of Drinagh bowling for over half a century, as a player, a supporter and committed member of the local club. Hailing from a bowl-playing family, Leo, along with his brothers Dan and Sonny played countless scores on the roads of West Cork during the fifties, sixties and seventies. Sonny was perhaps the most prominent, receiving copious mention in Flor Crowley’s Southern Star reports of the fifties. Leo played in many tournaments too particularly on the Reavouler and Shandrum roads where he commanded a fine following. In later years he was actively involved in Drinagh bowling club filling the roles of referee and steward right up to shortly before his passing. He was a hugely popular figure with all who came to bowl in Drinagh. Leo had a great rapport with bowling’s younger generation offering words of encouragement and wisdom when required. His many friends from the bowling game formed a guard of honour on his final journey to Drinagh Cemetery on Thursday last. Bol Chumann extends its sympathies to his wife Mary, to Martin and Marie and extended families.
Dick Donovan, Whitechurch, also had a long innings in the bowling game both as a player and administrator. His passing on January 15 invoked memories of a strong, competitive exponent who thrived in the higher novice grades. Dick showed his capabilities in tournament victories at Beal na mBlath and Rathduff. His administrative talents shone in his input to the North-East division. He served as chairman of the region for a three-year term in the mid-eighties and proved himself a capable and supportive officer as a member of Bol Chumann’s executive. Dick was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Whitechurch, on Wednesday last. Sympathies are extended to his wife, Bridget, to Gerald, Karen, Brian and Mairead and to extended families including the O’Donovan family, Blarney, (O’Donovan’s Dairy services, main sponsors of the All-Ireland series, Grenagh (2017/18), to whom he was closely connected.