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Bowling Report - Week ending 31st December


Aidan Murphy’s tour-de-force at Castletownbere on Friday was the undoubted highlight of an action-packed Christmas-New Year period on the bowing roads of the county. Playing his old nemesis, Arthur McDonagh, for bowling’s record stake, the Brinny native choose the occasion to deliver a stand-out performance that earned him a win by a margin of almost two bowls of odds. Focused and determined from the off, Murphy set about avenging a narrow loss to the same opponent in last year’s corresponding fixture in spectacular style. Two sensational opening shots yielded an eighty-metre lead and, when McDonagh missed sight at the ‘truck park’, with his third, Murphy swept to a bowl of odds lead. Indicative of his resolve was his following of a monster fifth shot of McDonagh’s and he was tested again around the double bends where McDonagh lofted accurately. North-East man, McDonagh, kept a strong challenge up firing a magnificent eleventh on the tough rising road but once again to no avail as Murphy followed in like manner. McDonagh briefly brought it under the shot with his twelfth to the ‘council entrance’ but his next got no purchase and his hopes of a late rally disappeared. Murphy was relentless firing a majestic thirteenth past the junior line and in the process rising the bones of two bowls of odds. Shortly after matters were terminated with Murphy’s lead deemed insurmountable. The whopping €104,000 total stake the contest went for was in keeping with a two-day meet that was a punter’s paradise and also reflected the willingness of so many to support the worthy causes at the heart of the eight-score series. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Cancer Connect were the beneficiaries of substantial donations derived from stake stipends. Neil Minihane and his trusty task force ensured a smooth-running event, and their efforts were warmly applauded by the hundreds who made their way westwards to the county’s fishing capital.

Friday started with an excellent showing from Carbery’s David Shannon who won his contest with Mid Cork’s Noel O’Donovan by a bowl of odds. For a €15,000 total, the Skibb man needed to be at his best early on as O’Donovan’s opening three had him sight at the ‘truck park’. Holding a slender lead at all points Shannon finally made a break when O’Donovan missed the ‘graveyard corner’ with his fifth. A super seventh from Shannon put daylight between them and he rose a bowl of odds after eight. Beating big tips in the next exchanges ensured he held his lead to the finish. A doubles score back the road saw Jim Coffey and Jimmy O’Brien defeat the City/Carbery combination of Anthony Gould and Sidney Shannon by a bowl of odds for a €42,000 total. Following the senior score on Friday excitement was at fever pitch in a dramatic win for the Dunmanway Horgan brothers, David and Brian who eclipsed the O’Brien’s Jimmy and Michael John by a mere metre for a €21,000 total stake. The Castletownbere fund-raisers got off to a stirring start on Thursday morning with big money wins for Tommy O’Sullivan and Denis Wilmot. O’Sullivan took on fellow intermediate Tim Young for a €40,000 stake and, following an even opening phase, eventually rose a bowl of odds with his sixth. Young tried hard in the bowling to the ‘council yard’ but O’Sullivan was defiant and held his lead to the finish. Back in, Denis Wilmot engaged with Christy Mullins for a similar €40,000 total. It was a score of swaying fortunes as Wilmot took early control rising a bowl and thirty metres by the half-way point. Mullins rallied and led with an incredible cast, but then the vintage champion from a few weeks ago squandered a glorious chance of a sensational win when not taking advantage of an average second last of Wilmot’s. Glad of his reprieve, the Bandon went on to win by almost a bowl. There was a doubles win for the South-West pairing of Wayne Parkes and Denis O’Sullivan over hot favourites Patrick Flood and Timmie McDonagh in Thursday’s third score. With a €25,000 total at issue, Parkes/O’Sullivan rose an early bowl of odds after some inaccuracy on the part of the North East duo. In mixed bowling the gap closed in the last third, but Parkes’ good last shot secured the win. Dunmanway’s Alan Brickley enjoyed a good innings over the festive period with wins at Togher Cross and Reenascreena ensuring confidence ahead of his Castletownbere clash with northern native, Padraigh Nugent. That score practice certainly had a positive influence as the Dunmanway man stormed to a bowl of odds lead after two monster opening shots. Nothing went right for Nugent in this one and he soon fell two behind in the shots to the ‘double bends’. Brickley was assured in his deliveries and increased odds with every exchange before running out a comfortable winner. Their contest carried a €33,200 stake.


The Grange challenge on St.Stephen’s Day had intermediates Tommy O’Sullivan and Paul Buckley in opposition. An exciting last shot encounter unfolded for a €6,000 total with U18 All-Ireland winner, O’Sullivan, in control early on. Buckley rallied but the victory went to the South-West man in the final throw.


Ballinacurra, Upton provided plenty of festive action with the winter junior A tournament the main focus. In the first of the qualifiers played on Saturday 23rd, a titanic battle unfolded between the leading protagonists Noel O’Donovan and Denis O’Driscoll. Denis Wilmot was in the mix also in this three-way but did not bring the form of a couple of recent victories to the occasion and, after going a bowl down at the bridge, fell off the pace from the three-quarter point onwards. Innishannon man, O’Donovan, held sway in a tense encounter as the line neared. O’Driscoll then came in front, but it was O’Donovan who closed it out by metres in the final exchanges. They played for a combined €13,200. Back the road, Ronan O’Donovan withstood a ferocious late charge from Alan Keane to win their joust in the last shot. The stakemoney in that contest amounted to €6,800. Another cracker was played out on St. Stephen’s Day when Michael Murphy, Mallow, and Carbery’s David Shannon went head-to-head in a singles joust that carried a €7,200 total. Shannon, a bowl down after seven, rallied amid top-class exchanges to lead by metres for the last shots. Murphy, though had the final say when his last shot got purchase enough to take the spoils from an unlucky Shannon. There was a victory for Carbery when Kieran Shannon defeated Paul Walsh, last shot, for €2,400. The final qualifier on Wednesday 27th was another three-way involving City’s Cian Boyle, East Cork’s Mick Hurley and Mid’s Kieran Murphy. While the score did not have the intensity of the previous qualifiers, it was an engaging duel that Boyle looked to have the winning of with two to go. When he missed the finish line from a good stand, Murphy who had closed to within metres took full advantage with a last shot win. Togher Cross winner from the previous Saturday, Hurley, was in contention right through but missed chances at vital stages. Their three-way carried a €4,350 total.


Two tournament finals were played over the holiday period. John Murphy, Togher Cross, won the Lyre novice veteran decider on December 23rd forging a one bowl win from Pat O’Sullivan, Shannonvale. For a €1,900 total, Murphy’s three to the first bend gave him handy law before O’Sullivan fired one of his specials down the ‘mason’s hill’ to level matters up. The Shannonvale man led briefly before a Murphy piledriver to the ‘double gates’ regained a big lead. A bowl of odds separated them in the Togher Cross man’s favour as they played to the ‘school’, but O’Sullivan brought it under that amid a few good exchanges and a tight finish beckoned. Murphy put it out of reach with a big cast to ‘Ballinascarthy cross’ and eventually won by the bowl.


At Dunderrow on Wednesday 27th, a well-contested novice tournament final saw Brendan Hurley and Donnacha O’Donovan go head-to-head for a €2,400 total. After an even opening in which both held the ascendancy for a brief period, Kinsale man, Hurley took a serious stranglehold with a flurry of well-executed deliveries starting with a massive third on to the long straight. Three shots later he was two bowls clear, but O’Donovan rallied with a fine effort to ‘Nyhan’s lane’ and the margin was back to the even shot. O’Donovan closed further but Hurley yielded no more and took the spoils by a bowl of odds.

Readjustments to some fixture schedules and, at times, inclement weather at venues were minor setbacks to a very full Christmas New Year programme. Scores at Lyre, Rossscarbery, Ballinacurra and Newcestown on Saturday 23rd were followed by a four-score selection at Togher Cross on Christmas Eve. Setting the ball rolling here was a cracking score between East Cork’s Mick Hurley and Clon’s Johnny O’Driscoll. Hurley took the spoils from this one for a €3,600 total. Reenascreena on Christmas Day saw Alan Brickley win from Ivan Buchannon while Drinagh on St. Stephen’s Day saw wins for Sidney Shannon and Paul Walsh.


In the North East division, Carrignavar provided much of the seasonal action. Mid-week Christmas tournament scores saw three-man teams vie for New Year’s Day finals in two competitions. Winners on Wednesday were the trio of Joseph Murphy/Pat O’Donovan/Jack O’Leary and they take on Denis Connolly/Kieran Daly/Felix Murphy in the A final. In the B final back the road, Tom O’Donovan/Pat Scanlon/Michael Cahill play Dylan McDonnell/Shane Cahill and Tony Dunlea.

Scores at Drimoleague on Wednesday 27th saw honours shared between James Russell and Luke Connors as well as wins for Seamus O’Regan and Vincent Healy. Castletownbere did not have the monopoly on Thursday and Friday with Carrignavar ongoing and scores at venues as diverse as Firmount and Schull. There was plenty youthful action at The Clubhouse on Saturday, where among the four played was a thirteen-shot belter between Dunmanway men, David O’Brien and Mark Deane. County novice B champion, O’Brien shaded this one in the final throw. They played for a €2,800 total. Results from West Cork venues are in the Carbery section. In scores at Jagoe’s Mills on Saturday 30th, a novice D tournament semi-final saw Paul O’Donoghue and Chris Hayes go head-to-head for a €2,000 total. O’Donoghue won this one by a bowl of odds. In a return here, Ronan Hoey had the narrowest of victories, mere centimetres, over Paul Kelleher for €900.

In scores at Firmount in North Cork, on Saturday, David Hubbard fired a superb last shot to deny Stephen Murphy the victory from a great score that carried a €2,800 total. Also here, on Saturday, Michael Murphy defeated Jerry Hubbard, last shot for €2,400. Earlier in the week in a regional novice E semi-final, Oisin Fogarty won from John Buckley, last shot, for €1,100 and in a return, Mickey McAuliffe defeated Jim Martin for €1,000. Also here, City’s James O’Sullivan defeated Shane Collins, last shot, for €2,600 and Jeremy Downey got the better of Paul Walsh for €400. At Firmount too, Mihcael Murphy defeated Gary Murphy for a €400 total; Jack Oldham defeated Ryan Long for €800, and Kieran Buckley defeated Tadg Bradley, last shot for €1,720.


In Gaeltacht novice E at Terelton, Sam Pickering kept a good run going with a semi-final win over Ron Lynch. Pickering’s winning margin was a bowl of odds for an €1,100 stake.


There was sadness over the Christmas period at the news of the passing of one of bowling’s best-known figures, Joe (Jasper) Coleman of Clonakilty. Possessed of a lively and engaging disposition, Joe retained his interest in bowling and its various goings on long after his remarkable playing career ended. He was a powerful and formidable exponent in an era of great junior and intermediate players and was prominent in the games second highest ranking throughout the seventies. At junior A level he was a regular contender in championships and was runner-up in the South-West 1985 decider to Donie Crowley. Martin Chambers, Cornie Bohane, Fachtna O’Regan, Jimmy Canty, John and Joe Carroll were among a host of players Joe would have interacted with in a career spanning three decades. His fluid stylish delivery ensured many victories in tournament finals among them, one at Darrara after a great score with Noel O’Brien and at Fermoy where he defeated former senior champion Mikey O’Driscoll. He won a Lyre final from Derry Warren and a decider at Kilpatrick from Teddy O’Neill. Joe’s funeral services on Christmas Eve and St. Stephen’s Day were attended by many hundreds from the bowling community all of whom would have fond memories of a wonderful personality. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.


The news of the passing of Gerry Rafferty, Keady, led to many tributes from bowling followers north and south. An ever-present at all major events including international stagings, Gerry was an immensely popular personality whose approachable manner enabled him connect with people from all walks of life. East Cork chair, Mick Hurley, who would have had many interactions with Gerry during his numerous visits to Ballincurrig for All-Ireland and King and Queen events, described him as ‘a true gentleman and a bowling stalwart’. He enjoyed the triumphs of his fellow county men and women particularly those of Thomas Mackle and Kelly Mallon while also being respectful and appreciative of the talents of their Cork rivals. Gerry’s affable ways and knowledgeable discourse will be missed as we head into 2024. Bol Chumann extends its sympathies to the Rafferty family. Ar dheis De go raibh an anam dilis


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