It’s a return trip to the Deice County for bowling followers when, on this coming weekend, the All-Ireland series for those participating in the junior C and novice grades will take place in the East Waterford village of Killea close to Waterford Harbour. Following on from last year’s successful hosting in the county’s other stronghold, Fenor, all is in readiness for a feast of bowling as representatives from the outer regions enjoin with champions from the established bases, Cork and Armagh. All-Ireland titles in junior C, novice 1 and novice 2 are there to be won. Cork’s recently crowned winners will be hoping for better luck than last year when an Ulster brace in junior C and novice 2 and a shock win in novice 1 for Leinster’s J P Clinton kept the Rebel challengers out of the winner’s enclosure. They will travel to Waterford tried and tested with either City’s Jimmy Quilligan or North’s Shane Collins representing in junior C, the powerfully strong Brian O’Driscoll in novice 1 and Blarney’s Michael O’Driscoll going with confidence in novice 2. Ulster will again be a powerful force. They have Barry O’Reilly, novice 2 winner in Boston in 2018, as their junior C, the youthful Anthony McVeigh as novice 1 and Conor Lappin, an Ulster junior B champion in 2004, now contesting in novice 2. These championships continue to spring a surprise winner, and nobody should discount North America’s trio, Brendan O’Donovan, junior C, Kevin O’Riordan, novice 1 or Andy Shay the West Virginian born novice 2 representative. Connaught have the ever-reliable David Hughes, junior C, former two-time finalist, Joe Sheridan, Novice 1 and Kevin Lavelle, making his third appearance as Novice 2. Leinster now have Clinton at junior C, again a formidable force, Alan Long and Timmie Cooney in the novice grades. London’s are also in the mix with Padraigh Nugent a strong contender in junior C. The draw for the semi-final round in all three championships will be announced at 8.00pm in Aggie Hayes’ Bar, Killea.
The programme for Killea will take the following course:
Saturday September 2nd 10.00am, Out, Novice 2 semi-final 1; 10.30am, Out, Novice 2 semi-final 2: 12.00, Back, junior C semi-final 1: 1 30pm, Out, Novice 1 semi-final 1; 2.00pm Out, Novice 1 semi-final 2: 3.30pm Back, Junior C semi-final 2.
Sunday September 3: 11.00am Out, Novice 2 final; 12.30 Back, Junior C final; 2.00 Out, novice 1 final.
A busy week of finals and play-offs made for an exciting build up to Killea. The novice B final at Newcestown on Monday saw Dunmanway’s David O’Brien deliver a tour-de-force rarely seen on the Mid Cork’s club novice course. Facing a formidable rival in Gaeltacht’s rising star, Liam Murphy, from Ballyvourney, O’Brien, playing out from the village, belied his underdog tag with a lengthy opening shot to sight at the first bend. He followed with a brilliantly tracked second and went sight at ‘the forge cross’ with a sublime third. For young Murphy, last years All-Ireland U16 winner, it was a baptism of fire and, although he had come through a whole series of tough battles to reach this final in his first adult foray, a two-bowl margin separated them at that early stage. Murphy did manfully with a good sixth shot, but O’Brien was relentless firing another big one to ‘Pedro’s’ where three bowls of odds came between them. O’Brien, inch perfect with every execution, was heading for road-record figures when Murphy who had done well to limit the damage to under three bowls sportingly conceded with a few to go. The stake at issue was €3,300.
Nearby Beal na mBlath staged the county novice D final on Tuesday and, in contrast to Monday’s B decider, this was an extraordinarily close-run affair. City’s Michael O’Driscoll, Blarney, and North Cork’s champion, Paul Twomey from Carrigadrohid brought support in numbers which was reflected in the €9,000 total the score went for. They delivered a contest for the ages with both signalling intent in magnificent opening exchanges. O’Driscoll beat a lengthy first of Twomey’s but was hind for the next two as the shot for shot duel ebbed and flowed. It continued in this vein to ‘O’Mahony’s’ at which point O’Driscoll was back in front by a metre. The City champion then looked like making a break rising fifty metres with his ninth but was hauled back by Twomey whose tenth to the junior line regained the fore bowl. As the finish neared O’Driscoll needed a big one and found it with a magnificent second last but it missed the finish line by five metres. Twomey’s great effort came closer still but not enough to score it out leaving all to play for in the final shots. O’Driscoll’s effort beyond the old Mosskeagh creamery won the day by fifteen metres. The inspiration O’Driscoll found to win that vital exchange may well have come from his father Mick, sprightly and focused on the sop, and belying the years in fine style. Reenascreena native, Mick, is one of West Cork’s all-time great performers whose place in the annals is secure as a junior A and intermediate All-Ireland winner from the eighties.
Still in Mid Cork but further east at Jagoe’s Mills on Wednesday, Brian O’Driscoll of Drimoleague, was seeking another title for the West Cork division when he took on the powerfully strong, Michael Ahern who represented the North East region. The hot favourite in the €2,200 total stake, O’Driscoll set about his task in admirable style rising a bowl of odds after two. Ahern showed his mettle with a magnificent fourth around ‘O’Brien’s corner’ and got his reward when knocking the odds to a mere metre after O’Driscoll’s miscued his own fourth shot when playing into a right-hand bend. The Drimoleague man quickly put that misadventure behind him and followed a big fifth of Ahern’s to hold the front. It was a perfectly executed seventh on the left-hand track that extended his lead and gave serious momentum to his challenge. Although now eighty metres behind, Ahern strove hard to reduce the deficit particularly with a big twelfth up to ‘power station’ when keeping the odds under the shot. There would be no denying O’Driscoll the Mick Hegarty Cup as his final late salvo won the bowl of odds to set him up for the novice 1 play-off with his fellow regional winner, David O’Brien. There was a sense of history repeating itself at Jagoe’s Mills too as Gretta Cormican presented the cup commemorating her late father to young Brian O’Driscoll. The new champion’s father, Teddy, won the novice 1 championship at Shannonvale in 1991 when getting the better of Gaeltacht’s P J Cooney who would move up the ranks to contest a senior final twelve year later.
Clondrohid in the Gaeltacht division were hosts to an incredible junior C county semi-final on Friday evening. Shane Collins, the North Cork champion and Mid’s John Anthony Murphy were the protagonists in a score that contained the most remarkable of turnarounds. With sizable support in both camps, the stakemoney balanced out at €9,400 and it was Murphy who made the early running. Five outstanding opening shots had him a bowl in front and, when he fired a perfectly executed sixth to the ‘Bell Inn’ his lead was almost doubled. It was top-notch fare from Murphy and Collins, despite not doing a lot wrong, fell two bowls behind after the next exchange to the point known at ‘the double gates’. The North Cork champion from Rathcoole did not give up the ghost and brought the margin well under the two by ‘Geoff’s lane’. When he blazed a tight thirteenth to sight at ‘the farm’ he had it under the bowl although aided by an uncharacteristic slip by Murphy when throwing his twelfth. Murphy recovered instantly with a huge throw, but Collins was on a roll and a massive fourteenth to the last bend knocked more odds. Still firing rockets, Collins had it down to thirty-five metres for the last shots. He completed an astonishing comeback and stunned the road with a final throw that won the day with his only fore bowl. It was another piledriver, his sixth in succession from the ‘Bell Inn’ that Murphy, a shade unluckily, missed by twelve metres. Collins takes on Jimmy Quilligan of the City this week at Grenagh for the junior C county and a place on the card at the All-Ireland’s in Killea.
That all-West Cork novice 1 play-off between A winner, Brian O’Driscoll and B champion, David O’Brien took place at Bantry on Saturday evening. It carried a stake too of €2,380 with many, despite the disparity in grading, giving O’Brien a fair chance given his electric performance in his county final at Newcestown. O’Driscoll, though, would not be denied and raced to a bowl lead after six shots. His power manifested itself again on the wide rising stretches to the Mealagh valley, and he doubled his lead before the finish ensuring his place in the Waterford line-up. The novice 2 play-off at Ballinagree on Sunday evening was a belter form start to finish. There was a turn-up too as Blarney’s Michael O’Driscoll, the D winner, stormed back from a bowl of odds deficit to deny hot favourite, David Desmond, the county C champion from the previous Sunday. The bowling was of a high order from the get-go, and it was Desmond with big fifth and sixth shots who rose a bowl of odds when the D winner’s sixth broke badly. O’Driscoll rebounded from that setback with three exceptional shots that not only wiped out Desmond’s lead but put him in front for the first time. Desmond took back the lead in the next exchange, but O’Driscoll came again with a brilliant closing sequence, and they won the day for him and ensured a place in the semi-final draw at Killea on Friday evening. In other county championship action, Chloe Hubbard, Rylane, secured another victory for North Cork, when she qualified for the county U12 girls’ final after narrow semi-final win at Macroom over Mid Cork’s fine champion, Ava O’Sullivan. In another U12 quarterfinal at Bweeng, Lily Scannell of the Gaeltacht won from Abbey Walsh of the City. In an U14 quarterfinal at Bweeng there was also success for the Gaeltacht when Cliona O’Brien won from City’s Caolinn Callanan. In a Queen of the Roads qualifier at Newcestown, Veronica O’Mahony, won by a bowl from Emma Fitzpatrick. In vintage C at Bweeng, Donie Connolly defeated John Lucey.
On a busy weekend in tournament action, the latest running of the Mother Hegarty Cup got underway at Lyre and the Joe Bowen Cup memorial tournament was completed at Whitechurch. Hegarty Cup holder, Aidan Murphy, got his defence off to a winning start when, for the second week running he defeated Martin Coppinger. Having come from away back in his Mick Barry Cup, King of the Roads qualifier win at Ballincurrig on Sunday week, Murphy had more leeway to spare at Lyre. He led for the first time after three when his Bantry rival’s third went awry. Although Coppinger regained the lead in the next exchange, Murphy had the better of it in the shots around the ‘double bends’ and up to ‘McCarthy’s wall’. The odds gained here gave him a winning margin of almost a bowl. Timmie Murphy became the first holder of the Joe Bowen Cup when he came out on top in the three-way decider with Andrew O’Leary and Noel Gould at Whitechurch on Saturday. For a combined €3,000, it was a good battle for much of the way. Gould, who never led, lost ground at the three-quarter stage and it was left to Murphy and O’Leary to fight it out at the front. The lead exchanged between them on numerous occasions before a crucial miss to the ‘devil’s bend’ was to prove costly for O’Leary. Murphy gained good leeway here and, although O’Leary came close again, it was the Ballyclough man who was in the winner’s enclosure. At Ballincurrig in a Jim O’Driscoll Cup qualifier Timmy McDonagh defeated Denis O’Sullivan, last shot, for €1,800. In a tournament score at Beal na mBlath, Ger O’Driscoll, Newcestown, defeated Eoin O’Riordan, Macroom, last shot for €2,400. O’Riordan reversed that result in the return which was played for a €3,100 total. In a return score at Ballinagree on Sunday evening, Stephen Murphy defeated Jim Coffey, last shot, for €6,200.
In regional action, the Novice E grade is continuing in several divisions. In West Cork at Inch, Daniel Dullea defeated Ronan Hurley and John Murray got through at the expense of Chris Bowles. In a North-East novice E final at Carrignavar, Kevin Desmond defeated Sean Sheehan in the last shot. In Gaeltacht novice E scores at Clondrohid, Ray Fallon won from John O’Shea and Brian Healy won from Daniel Murphy. In novice E at Inchigeela, Shane Hodman won from Sean O’Riordan and Adrian O’Dea won from Ross Pickering. In North novice E at Firmount, Tadg Bradley defeated Aidan O’Brien for €600 and Dave Harrington defeated Barry Meade for €1,260.
There were emotional scenes too on The Creamery Road, Bantry, last week when bowling’s Unlimited championships were held over a three-day period. Preliminaries and semi-finals on Tuesday Wednesday led into a five final feast on Thursday with plenty of thrills and spills ensuing. Blessed with fine weather, and despite the newly resurfaced roadway making for challenging playing conditions, the event, making its first proper return since Covid induced restrictions, was well-supported by participants from centres all over County Cork who performed with enthusiasm and no little skill. With Tom Conway overseeing, the first of Thursday’s finals was in the men’s intermediate category and here Christopher Walsh kept the Drinagh flag flying with a strong display when coming home a winner from two worthy rivals, Darren Lawless, Cope Clonakilty and Paul Colgan, Dunmanway. Christopher made a sweeping start in this one and it stood him in good stead. In the corresponding lady’s intermediate final, there was no stopping Skibbereen’s Kelly Newman as she stormed to victory over Joy Robinson, Bantry and Catherine O’Sullivan, Castletownbere. The intermediate B final, also a three-way, saw a big performance from Clonakilty’s Patrick Batterberry whose easy-going lofted style gave him just enough leeway to see off the game challenge of fellow townsman, Wayne O’Sullivan. Just off the pace but also in contention throughout was Barry Power, Castletownbere. A terrific battle unfolded for the lady’s senior crown. Eileen Hurley, Colomane, rose an early bowl of odds on Mary Lawlor, Rosscarbery, and Colette O’Leary, Castletownbere, but it was short lived as Mary and Colette quickly closed the gap. Colette came very close to snatching it in the final throw, but Eileen beat big tip to take a terrific win.
The senior men’s final was a cracking re-match between Dunmanway men, Martin Dullea and Micheal Collins. Both produced bowling to match that epic county D decider at Beal na mBlath of the previous Tuesday and it was Dullea who prevailed throwing shots of prodigious length. Organisers, Sarah Cotter, Laurna Levis and Con Lucey of CoAction Bantry were ably assisted by Bol Chumann personnel among them, Batty Hurley, Donal O’Mahony, Pat and Patrick Courtney, Curly Hourihane, Ann Enright, Chris Walsh, Tony Collins and James O’Driscoll.
West Cork bowling mourned the passing of one of its most strident advocates when the death was announced on Tuesday last of Charlie Donovan, Kilcrohane. A life-long follower of bowling, Charlie had its best interests at heart. He was, during the many years of its existence, the life and soul of Kilcrohane bowling club and was at the helm running tournament and championship scores over an extended period time. He was instrumental in bringing many noted players to the Sheep’s Head peninsula and the Danny McCarthy Memorial Cup competition was a particular favourite. Charlie’s dedication to promoting the game, his genial manner and friendly outgoing disposition made him a popular and respected figure among the bowling fraternity. Fittingly, his coffin bore the Bol Chumann flag as his many friends from the bowling world accompanied Charlie to his final resting place in Kilcrohane cemetery on Thursday last. Sympathies on behalf of Bol Chumann are extended to Charlie’s wife, Mary B, sons Anthony and Paul and extended families. Rest in Peace.