A magnificent Gaeltacht treble along with an unexpectedly easy triumph for Denise Murphy in intermediate ladies yielded four victories for Cork but Thomas Mackle won the big one depriving Michael Bohane of outright honours as the senior decider brought the curtain down on a hectic weekend in south Armagh. Newtownhamilton was the Mecca and large crowds lined the roadway on both days. The senior final had captured the imagination of bowling followers everywhere and Michael Bohane brought support in hundreds. A grandstand finishing surge brought him close as he tested Mackle to the hilt over the closing quarter and, while there may be a regret or two at chances missed in the opening half of the score, he certainly gave his all and proved himself a worthy Cork and Munster champion. Thomas Mackle was not his settled self for much of that opening phase. He followed a big opener of Bohane’s but a very poor second shot left him trailing by ninety metres.
The Ulster champion narrowed the gap in the next exchanges but presented Bohane with a golden opportunity when he completely miscalculated his fifth. To the disappointment of the Cork camp, their man did likewise, missing a very beatable mark to concede the lead for the first time. Other chances went a begging when Mackle got no traction on his seventh and eight shots on the downward slope to the ‘slate-quarry bridge’. Bohane still led as they played around the bend in nine before Mackle suddenly found form with a brilliant tenth throw that yielded a hundred metre lead. The Corkman reeled that in to thirty with a big cast to the hollow but, when Mackle fired a fabulous fourteenth to go two hundred metres clear, it looked all up for the Cork champion. Bohane responded well with super fifteenth and sixteen shots and Mackle needed another piledriver to ‘Chandler’s’ to maintain a handy advantage as the line neared. Bohane beat the line with his nineteenth, but Mackle had too much in hand and beat his mark comfortably. He is now a two-time winner of the Hughie Trainor Cup and was presented with the imposing trophy by sponsor Philip White of PWT tyres. The total stake amounted to 7,100 euro/sterling.
Denise Murphy was well-up for her intermediate joust with the youthful Shannon McGuire in the opening score on Sunday morning. Shannon was well-backed too in the 11,200 total stake, but did not make the best of starts. She missed a beatable opening tip and trailed by fifty metres when her opponent fired a big second shot. Denise Murphy’s power on the rise was to have a big bearing on this contest. A brilliant fifth shot to ‘Barker’s road’ rose a bowl of odds and that very quickly doubled to two as Shannon got little distance from her sixth and seventh. Not even a good eleventh could derail Murphy’s charge and the odds continued to rise as she fired super twelfth and thirteenth shots to the hollow by ‘Davidson’s’. The Michael McSweeney Cup was headed for Ballinagree long before the finish line was reached.
A contender for performance of the weekend was delivered by Liam Murphy of Ballyvourney, Gaeltacht’s splendid All-Ireland U16 champion. Oisin Gribben would have beaten most in an excellent showing but Murphy’s power and pace was just too much on the day. After a misplay with his first when he was a shade fortunate to get a touch, Murphy fired an exceptional second shot to gain a big lead. Gribben responded with a brilliant third and it went shot for shot to the ‘bridge bend’. Gribben’s seventh touched nicely to the ‘quarry cross’ and it was in the melting pot until the Gaeltacht boy fired his score-winning response. From blind sight, Murphy unleashed a powerful delivery that cannoned off the bridge wall to run almost another shot’s length up the rise. Gribben battled bravely to the line but Liam Murphy, with confidence oozing, would not be denied as he passed the line in a record-breaking nine shots.
The junior B shoot-out between Aaron Hughes and Denis O’Sullivan was flagged as a stand-out fixture of the Newtown weekend as soon as the programme was announced. It was one that most certainly lived up to its billing. Inconceivably, Hughes was tipped as hot favourite resulting in a stakeless score but it was soon evident that nothing separated them in terms of bowlplaying expertise. Representing the South-West region, O’Sullivan was fast off the mark whipping a brilliant opening shot up the right-hand track. His next two were even better and this scintillating blitz yielded a full bowl of odds as Hughes, without doing too much wrong, looked in trouble. How the Navan road clubman extricated himself will be remembered when the weekend’s highlights are recalled. A massive fifth throw knocked the bowl and when O’Sullivan looked to regain it with a super sixth, Hughes beat that as well. When the Cork champion, a shade unluckily, hit the back of the ‘slate quarry bridge’ with his seventh, it was the opening Hughes craved. He took it with aplomb, lining a sensational eighth that touched at the bridge and again off the kerbs and suddenly he was in front. Just over half-way, the rain descended but the epic battle continued. Hughes defiantly held his newfound lead beating big tips from O’Sullivan. The Ulster champion rose an eighty-metre advantage with excellent effort into ‘Murphy’s brae’ and beat a big tip to the ‘car park entrance’ to hold vital yardage as they faced the line. His fourteenth over the line was another fine cast and it won him the Denis McGarry cup and 2022 All-Ireland junior B championship.
The first two legs of Gaeltacht’s treble came in the weekend’s opening scores on Saturday morning. At opposite ends of the age spectrum, Ross O’Brien and Tim Kelleher achieved their goals with varying degrees of effort. Kelleher had to dig deep to bring the veterans (over 50’s) championship and the Tony Murray Cup back to Cork. An engaging duel with Armagh’s Brian Kinchen saw the Gaeltacht man in the ascendancy in the early stages. Three big opening shots yielded a hundred metres and that transferred to a bowl of odds lead after six. Kelleher had big odds with it as they played around the ‘bridge’ but Kinchen came back with a super eleventh to knock the bowl of odds. Thus, it remained over the closing quarter. Kelleher needed focus as Kinchen proved a difficult challenge to shake off. The Corkman eventually won by the bowl of odds. The contest carried a 13,000 total (Euro/Sterling). Ross O’Brien was an emphatic winner of the Dan Mackle cup and the U12 championship. The Clondrohid boy had too much in his armoury for Ulster’s game champion, Sean Lappin in the opening score of the All-Ireland series on Saturday morning. From the off O’Brien exuded power and class as he raced to a two-bowl lead after three throws. Lappin tried to the end, but the gap widened with each throw, and, with the line in sight following a massive seventh, the Gaeltacht camp had its first champion of the weekend.
Lily O’Rourke got a great cheer following a wonderful performance in the girls U16 final. Cork’s Laura Sexton made a bright start holding a slender lead after both fired big opening shots. When she opened a sixty metre gap with a big seventh to ‘Davidson’s’ it looked as if it might be her day, but Lily O’Rourke showed her paces in a magnificent response. Two excellent shots to the ‘bridge’ turned the contest in her favour and, despite Laura’s best efforts a bowl of odds came between them on the rise. Lily finished in brilliant style winning the Monsignor Horan Cup by a two-bowl margin.
Newtownhamilton’s two-year hosting has been an unqualified success. On the return post-Covid last year there was a welcome back that was fitting and timely. Bol Chumann Ard Mahcha and the host club had everything in ship-shape in terms of road diversions and personnel on their varying duties. The weekend’s programme included a tribute to Brian Toal who has stepped back from his journalistic input after over sixty years of contribution to the sport he loved. Dominic Morgan relates Brian’s role in the setting up of the All-Ireland championships when, as then secretary of Bol Chumann Ard Mahca, he was the foremost instigator along with Flor Crowley Cork’s founding chairman, of a season-ending championship finale that has sustained the sport of bowl-playing for close on sixty years. Hugely appreciated too for those travelling from the south was the buy-in of local residents who set up food and refreshments stalls at various points along the bowling road. Jim McDonald, chairman of Baile Ur Road Bowls club, and his hard-working team have ensured that Brian Toal’s foresight and ambition transcends a new generation of bowl-playing. It was an occasion to savour on a wonderfully welcoming weekend in a very historic location.
Last week’s U16 county finals were close encounters. Fourteen-year-old Laura Sexton captured the girls crown by mere metres after a terrific struggle with Gaeltacht’s Darcy O’Brien at Castletownkenneigh on Monday. The lead changed in average fare over the first six shots before Laura edged away to a seventy-metre lead but was soon reeled in as Darcy levelled in the next exchanges. The South-West champion eventually took control again rising a bowl of odds after twelve Both girls put in a storming finish as Darcy, who was attempting to emulate her brother Ross’ U12 success, reeled in odds over the closing quarter. Laura Sexton beat a testing last shot by two metres to take the title in an exciting finish. The U16 boy’s shoot-out at Shannonvale on Tuesday was not quite at the level of some earlier rounds. Liam Murphy of Ballyvournery, representing the Gaeltacht division and West Cork’s versatile champion, Brian Horgan exchanged the lead in average bowling to the quarry bend. The closeness of the exchanges made for an interesting contest as both took ten to sight at ‘Desmond’s’ where Murphy led by a few metres. Horgan looked to have made a decisive break with big shots from ‘Kingston’s wall’, but it was not to be for the Dunmanway youth as, at a crucial time, Murphy delivered a score-winning brace from ‘Hayes’ house’ to ‘Campbell’s pit’ that turned a deficit of seventy metres into a bowl of odds lead. It was a margin he wouldn’t lose in the remaining shots.
In regional action, Dan O’Donovan, Belgooly, captured the Mid Cork novice C championship at Templemartin on Thursday finding a way with super last shot that turned what looked like a lost cause into a thrilling victory. Dermot Crowley an early lead in a decider that carried a €2,780 total, holding good odds at ‘Slynne’s’ before rising a bowl with a huge seventh. O’Donovan made inroads with a good effort to the ‘school house cross’ but Crowley still held handy odds facing the line. The Belgooly man’s piledriver won the day and he now plays the winner of Carbery/North Cork in the semi-final. It was O’Donovan’s second Mid Cork championship for the season having won the novice veteran title a few weeks back.
The opening salvo in the junior C/Novice county rounds were fired at Clondrohid on Thursday last. Forty-five regional champions go in search of five county titles with full county honours now bestowed on all four novice grades as well as junior C. The junior C preliminary between Carbery’s Brian Coughlan and North Cork’s Stephen Murphy at the Gaeltacht venue carried a €1,600 total and resulted in a one bowl win for Coughlan who now advances to a quarterfinal meeting with Mid Cork’s Denis Murphy at Timoleague. At Castletownkenneigh on Sunday morning, there was no joy for South-West champions in their county bids. In novice B City’s Mark Long defeated Stephen O’Connell and in D, Noel Hegarty of the City division won from South-West’s Alan Murphy. The City men face North-East or Gaeltacht opposition in the semi-finals.
In East Cork, Paul O’Brien, who made a bold bid for the veteran’s county, is also the regions junior C winner by virtue of his one bowl victory over Pa Butler, Castlemartyr. Played at Ballincurrig on Thursday for a €4,200 total, O’Brien rose his winning odds in the shots to the ‘big turn’. In the County quarterfinal at Jagoe’s Mills, O’Brien plays West Cork’s Kevin Cotter.
Bol Chumann extends its sympathies to Denis Trunwit on the passing of his wife, Mary. Affable and good-humoured company, Denis and Mary graced countless bowling events with their presence always back by throwing mark informed and knowledgeable on all aspects of the game. Mary was laid to rest in Bandon cemetery on Thursday last. Rest in Peace.