Ethan Rafferty’s serious leg injury, sustained on Friday last while playing outfield with his club Grange St. Colmcille’s in their last league game of the season against St. Peter’s Lurgan, has ruled him out of this weekend’s All-Ireland bowling finals at Eglish, Co. Tyrone. The unfortunate Armagh netminder faces a long period in recovery and the immediate upshot is that his eagerly awaited intermediate clash with Cork’s champion, Brian Wilmot, the headliner on the weekend’s clár at Eglish, will not now take place. The entire bowling community wish Ethan well on his difficult road. The remaining finals will go ahead. A trip to the Red Hand county is still in the offing for hundreds of bowling followers on this August Bank Holiday weekend when the south Tyrone village host the games second All-Ireland series of the current season. Five national titles are now down for decision with the women’s senior, on Sunday and men’s junior on Saturday, topping the bill. Each of the finals hold their own intrigue. Can Geraldine Curtin halt Kelly Mallon’s extraordinary run? The Madden star is headed for an eleventh All-Ireland crown, and such has been her dominance in recent finals that it is a big ask for the Cork champion. And yet the sheer drama of their only previous All-Ireland clash in 2016 is still fresh in the memory. It was a score that Geraldine dominated on Kelly’s home road and one she looked certain to take the laurels from holding a bowl of odds lead throwing the last shot. But Kelly Mallon pulled from her locker one of the most astonishing throws seen in any final and that rocket-like cast up the rising road in Madden was missed in two and Kelly had won her sixth title. That Geraldine had the wherewithal to match her vaunted rival for so long in that score gives a positive indicator that she can do so again. The Cork champion will not be lacking in support when they match-up on Sunday morning. Brian Wilmot would have carried a long unbeaten run into the men’s intermediate final against Ethan Rafferty. He will now be declared the champion for 2023 but not in a manner he or the bowling public would have wished.
A humdinger is promised when the junior A final gets underway on Saturday afternoon. In this one the youthful duo of Eugene McVeigh and Denis O’Sullivan go head-to-head. McVeigh hails from the host club so will be well familiar with the venue. He has shown in the last twelve months an uncanny ability to produce on the big occasion and took a victory over O’Sullivan at the ‘Dowcha Boy’ festival in Skibbereen in March. Still the Cork champion has improved since then and has bowled brilliantly in many of his scores on his march to the Cork title. He was a shade unlucky to lose out to Aaron Hughes in a thrilling junior B All-Ireland last year at Newtownhamilton and will be keen to make amends. Three under-age finals are down for decision. Cork’s Tommy O’Sullivan will be the hottest favourite to win U18. He is battled hardened and needed his intermediate ranked talents to see off some worthy challenges on his way to the county title here in Cork. Oisin Gribben is a dual Ulster champion and showed plenty even in defeat in his U16 bid in Ballincurrig but has a big task should O’Sullivan bring his best game. Michaela Green, Armagh and Cork’s Ellen Sexton fight it out for the Girls U18 championship on Sunday morning after the women’s senior final. The boys U14 decider will have Ulster’s Dan Sweeney and Cork’s Tommy O’Donoghue in opposition. All in all, the programme holds an interesting mix in which the players' skills, mental fortitude, and strategies will be put to the test, making it, hopefully, a compelling and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. It is not the first All-Ireland visit to Eglish. The village close to the football bastion of Moy hosted the junior C and novice All-Ireland series in 2007 when the redoubtable Pat Mallon added to his collection of trophies with the junior title, Kilnamartyra’s Gerry O’Riordan won novice 1 and Brendan Fleming delighted the big Boston entourage by winning novice 2.
The Eglish 2023 All-Ireland programme is as follows:
Saturday August 5: 11.00am, Boys U18 final, Oisin Gribben (Ulster) v Tommy O’Sullivan (Munster): Start line at ‘O’Neill’s’.
1.00pm, Boy’s U14 final, Dan Sweeney (Ulster) v Tommy O’Donoghue (Munster): Start line at ‘Daly’s’.
3.00pm, Men’s junior A final, Eugene McVeigh (Ulster) v Denis O’Sullivan (Munster): Start line at ‘O’Neill’s’.
Sunday August 6: 11.00am, Women’s Senior final, Kelly Mallon (Ulster) v Geraldine Daly-Curtin (Munster): Start line at ‘O’Neill’s’.
1.00pm Girls U18 final, Michaela Greene (Ulster) v Ellen Sexton (Munster).
3.00pm: Benefit score, Shaun Donnelly (Ulster) v Brian Wilmot (Munster): Start line at ‘O’Neill’s’.
The boys U18 final at Ballinacarriga on Friday evening was a cracker. That a two-bowl margin separated Tommy O’Sullivan and Conor O’Donovan at the end does scant justice to a superb display by the Mid Cork champion, from Belgooly. Intermediate ranked, Tommy, had to pull out his best performance to date to win this one. O’Donovan took the first four tips and was a metre hind in six to ‘Finn’s corner’. While O’Sullivan was expected to pull away in the next exchanges, the opposite was the case as the Mid Cork champion lined two explosive efforts to rise a hundred metre lead. O’Sullivan needed a big one to stave off a bowl of odds deficit by ‘Manch creamery cross’ and, to his credit, produced it. He did even better with his next, firing a tenth to ‘Hehir’s’ bend and suddenly he was in the driving seat to the tune of almost a bowl of odds. O’Donovan hit a super thirteenth past ‘Granure cross’ and into the lag but could make no inroads as O’Sullivan powered on to the line in fifteen. He will be the favourite to bring the Dr. Lucey Cup back to Cork when he takes on Oisin Gribben in the opening score of the All-Ireland series at Eglish on Saturday next.
Ellen Sexton ensured a South-West double in the U18 category when taking the laurels from a competitive decider at The Clubhouse on Monday evening last. Mid Cork’s dual U16 and U18 winner, Rosin Allen, who has enjoyed a splendid summer of championship wins and has a few more years in this category, gave of her best, but Ellen’s astute play in the opening segment to ‘the chips’ gave her a lead she didn’t relinquish. Rosin did not replicate the astounding start she made at Lyre in her semi-final win over Emma Hurley, and missed an early opportunity to take a handy lead when Ellen’s opener went right too soon. Ellen, a county winner at U16 in 2020, made the most of that reprieve and dominated the score thereafter. The bowl of odds was up at ‘Dineen’s lane’ before a fine rally by ‘Clon cross’ by Rosin brought it well under that margin. No more ground was yielded by the Timoleague lady and a couple of perfectly delivered shots from ‘Murray’s’ to O’Riordan’s’ restored her shot of odds. Association chair, Michael Brennan, presenting the Bol Chumann cup wished Ellen well in her All-Ireland big at Eglish against Michaela Greene.
The U14 final was played out at Ballinagree on Saturday last and here, Tommy O’Donoghue brought another title to the North East division. Mid Cork’s Jack Allen, also the regional U12 winner, was giving away a few years to his opponent but kept it level for the first three. O’Donoghue rose a bow of odds with a big fifth shot to ‘the pumphouse’ and beat a big seventh of Jack’s to hold his lead. O’Donoghue stayed on top and won by two. On Wednesday evening at Beal na Morrive O’Donoghue overcame a big hurdle when getting past last year’s impressive U12 champion, Ross O’Brien of the Gaeltacht division. Here, having been in front by almost a bowl after three, O’Donoghue was reeled in and led by his Gaeltacht rival as they played to the ‘bridge’. O’Brien undid his good work when he hit ‘the rock’ beyond half-way and O’Donoghue was in the clear again and held his advantage. In a girl’s U14 quarterfinal round score at Clondrohid on Friday, North Cork’s emerging talent, Jena Healy from Kilcorney, just edged out Drinagh’s new star Katie Coakley, West Cork’s champion.
For the second week running, James O’Donovan was in the winner’s enclosure with a high-profile win over Arthur McDonagh at Whitechurch, his latest success. Following up on his Paddy Barry Cup victory at Rosscrbery, O’Donovan took a while to settle at the City venue and trailed his Fermoy rival as they played to ‘the wall’. Throwing over forty metres at ‘Bula lane’, McDonagh misplayed into the right, a mistake that cost him his hard won advantage. It also had the effect of spurring O’Donovan to new heights as he took command with two brilliant casts to ‘Downey’s line’. A bowl of odds to the good the Bandon man fired three more to ‘the farm’ extending his lead to a shot and sixty. In a relentless display to the finish, O’Donovan won by two. The stakemoney amounted to €4,000 with McDonagh the punter’s favourite. Late on Sunday evening at Whitecurch the last of the three-way qualifiers for the Joe Bowen Cup tournament took place. For a €6,000 total it was Timmie Murphy who took control in the early stages against last weekend’s Beamish Cup winner at The Pike, Brendan O’Neill and Fairhill’s James O’Sullivan. Murphy maintained his hold winning by over a bowl from both rivals. He will play Noel Gould and Andrew O’Leary in the upcoming Bowen Cup final. Back the road at Whitechurch on Sunday evening, Shane Lotty defeated Liam Walsh by a bowl for €2,000.
Forty-two inter-regional round scores over the coming weeks will decide Cork’s three representatives for the junior C and novice All-Ireland’s at Killea, Co. Waterford on September 2/3. The opening salvoes came at Templemartin on Sunday last when South-West’s novice C and D champions came through stern tests provided by their North East regional counterparts. Carrignavar’s Michael Murphy made a good start in his novice C preliminary round score with Ballygurteen’s Garoid McCarthy, and with a better fifth might have taken a bowl lead to ‘Slynne’s corner’. McCarthy steadied the ship and levelled the contest with a big effort to ‘O’Riordan’s’. He continued in the same vein and rose the bones of a bowl lead to the ‘schoolhouse cross’. The South-West champion held his margin to the end and now faces a tasty quarterfinal clash with Carbery’s Gavin Crowley at The Clubhouse. Jack O’Driscoll made it a double for South-West when his good start saw him take an early lead against North East’s Mick Sheehan. For a €2,200 stake, Sheehan made inroads in the middle third but couldn’t come in front of his Clon opponent. Jack now has a quarterfinal meeting with Carbery’s Darren O’Brien also at The Clubhouse. The remaining preliminary round scores in the junior C, novice A and B grades as well as several quarterfinal round fixtures are pencilled in for this week.
Fixture’s secretary, Richie Fitzgerald, has progressed the vintage (over 60’s) championship with week evening scores alternating between different regions. Section C with sixty-nine entries divided in groups A and B, West and East of the county, is the priority. In the former, group A (West), Jerry Connolly bowled well at Drinagh in advancing at the expense of Jim Walsh. On Tuesday at The Clubhouse, Liam Hurley hit seven big shots to ‘Dineen’s lane’ in his win over John O’Callaghan while at Leap on Thursday, Timmie Hennessy came from arrears to deny John Tringle in the last shot. The Pike, clubman, Donal O’Sullivan, hit top form at Timoleague when coming in ahead of Pat Joe Sheehy for a €700 total. In vintage C group B (East) at Paddoes, Liam Buckley won from Tom Fulham and at The Bog Road, Mick Murphy, Donoughmore, still swinging almost forty years on from his junior A All-Ireland triumph, got through a tough battle with Mo O’Connor. Still in vintage C (East) at Glenabo, John Twohig won by two from Seamus O’Tuama and John O’Donoghue won from Denis Hoare. In vintage B group B at Beal na Morrive on Wednesday Association Hon Secretary, Michéal O’Céallacháin, gave a hint that he will be hard beaten in this category when firing four unreal opening shots in his win over Tom Allen. A shot of odds down then, Allen, fought it well but could not catch the Baile Bhuirne man.
Eirinn O’Donovan is West Cork junior ladies winner for 2023 after edging out Marie Russell in a thrilling contest on the Inch road, Dunmanway. The evenly matched duo went level to the ‘bridge’ before Marie took a sixty-metre lead with three exceptional shots from ‘Duggan’s’ to ‘Droumlena cross’. Eirinn closed the gap and eventually went ahead at the three-quarter stage. Marie looked to have regained the ascendancy with a sweeping cast towards the finish line only for Eirinn to meet the challenge head on and deliver a score-winning last throw.
John Anthony Murphy won the Mid Cork junior C final at Templemartin on Wednesday. Playing his near relative, Trevor O’Sullivan, Murphy, who won last year’s county novice A championship, was on the hind foot in the opening half of the score. A strong finishing surge brought him ahead and he will now contest with the East/West Waterford winner, Michael O’Leary, in the county rounds quarterfinal. At Ballinacurra, Upton, on Friday evening in E scores, Cian Collins defeated Finbarr Lucey for €1,100 and Sean Galvin defeated Martin Cronin for €1,000. In E too in Castletownkenneigh, Shane Collins won from Finbarr Coleman for a €500 total. In Gaeltacht junior ladies at Macroom Adrianna Creedon won from Laura O’Callaghan.
The City divisional novice C final at The Bog Road saw Colin O’Callaghan win by a bowl from Paul Murphy for a combined €2,200. At Paddoes in the novice D semi-final, Tony Delaney defeated Pat Cunningham by two bowls for €1,000. Delaney plays Mick O’Driscoll (jun) Blarney in the decider this week. Back Paddoes, Nick Geoghan defeated Michael O’Mahony, last shot, for €1,400.
The North Cork novice A final was played out at Peake on Monday and here, Jamie Kelleher defeated Eamonn Murphy by a bowl of odds for €3,100. It was an excellent contest between the pair with Kelleher only rising his winning odds in the closing stages. On the way back Jerry Hubbard and Jack Oldham renewed acquaintance and produced a cracker. Hubbard won in the last shot for €2,900. Peake were hosts again for the regional novice B decider on the following evening. Here Paul O’Rourke and Tony O’Flynn engaged, and it was Rylane man O’Rourke who took the laurels. Back the road, Ross Lynch won from Pat Fitzgibbon for a €1,000 total. In a doubles contest at Ballinagree on Thursday, Martin Kelleher and James Collins defeated Stephen Spillane and Mike O’Regan, last shot, for €1,000 and, in a return, John MacSullivan won from Liam McCarthy, last shot, for €1,100. In the North-East novice A final at Grenagh on Friday, Michael Ahern defeated Michael Gould, by a bowl of odds for €1,700. Ahern bowled strong and will face South-West’s John O’Driscoll in the county preliminaries.
Pat Murphy, another great from yesteryear, went to his reward recently. Pat, from Mahon in Cork City but originally from that renowned bowling bastion of Templemartin in Mid Cork, was one of a trio of brothers whose exploits through the seventies, eighties and nineties garnered county and All-Ireland honours on a regular basis. Pat, perhaps achieved the most, John and Jerry not far behind. Described in Flor Crowley’s report on the 1970 All-Ireland finals at Knappagh, Co. Armagh, as ‘The best junior All-Ireland champion to date’, Pat was at his regal best in that period of the seventies and early eighties. In the county junior A final of 1970, Pat defeated Paddy O’Leary of the East division at City venue Togher and he brough a large entourage to the Orchard county in pursuit of All-Ireland glory. The up-and-coming Colm Grimley was in the opposing camp. Flor states ‘the bowling was of extraordinary standard for junior players, and it was a score that had to be fought out to the last shots before it could be safely be said that it was won’. Pat’s opening ten shots were of record-breaking proportions. It would be but one of many triumphs for Pat Murphy. His brother, John, was sometimes his rival and they met in the 1982 intermediate county final at Crossbarry when John emerged the winner. Pat Murphy’s prowess as an intermediate player came to the fore when he came through a quality field to contest the final again the following year this time defeating Pat Sutton in a well-contested final at Ballyshonin. Another All-Ireland was achieved a few weeks later when he defeated the great Aidan Toal to claim the 1983 crown at the same venue. Pat’s interest in bowling never waned and he was ever present at the countless scores involving his own family and extended family members. He was among the large attendance that witnessed the success of his nephew, David Murphy, at the county final at Ballincurrig on June 25. Pat was laid to rest in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery on Saturday July 22, his funeral cortege accompanied by his many bowling friends from the City and Mid Cork divisions. Sympathies are extended to the Murphy family and extended families. Rest in Peace.