As a score of interminable twists and turns wound to its conclusion, yet another monumental swing seemed imminent right at the death after Gary Daly’s incredible cast around ‘Crowley’s concrete’ ran to within metres of the finish line. Aidan Murphy, a full bowl ahead and a seemingly certain winner before that delivery, was suddenly under pressure to beat the line in two from a similar stand in order to prevent a last shot show-down with his Fermoy rival. His first left him with quite a bit to do but he held his nerve firing a last shot straight and true and duly took the spoils from a hard-fought contest that, although not brimful of bowling of senior standard, kept a large crowd captivated right to the end. It was certainly an exciting climax to the West Cork Distillers sponsored ‘Dowtcha Boy’ headliner at The Marsh Road on Sunday evening last. Murphy, the overwhelming favourite in the €20,800 total stake, was on the backfoot early as Daly raced to a hundred metre lead with a splendid opener. Daly’s third as he sought to extend his lead unluckily hit a ‘bollard’ and, perhaps in a portent of things to come, he eventually lost the lead when his well-drilled fifth cracked right off the play by the ‘council gates’. He had made the same point in four in his winning start to their corresponding fixture last year. Daly regained the lead with a super seventh to the ‘silvery gate’ but his follow up was way off and when Murphy produced an inch-perfect tenth, the Brinny native was the bones of a bowl ahead as they played away from the ‘steps’. The turnaround was swift again as Daly regained the lead with a monstrous effort past ‘Thornhill cross’. Ten metres separated them at ‘Ballyhilty bend’ and from here Murphy found new reserves firing an exquisite fifteenth that would ultimately prove to be the score-winning shot. Daly’s misplay at the ‘avenue gate’ left him almost a bowl down but he didn’t give up the ghost and his final effort almost brought a grandstand finish.
Saturday’s opening scores brought success for local punters as Darragh Dempsey and Tim Young stayed the course in splendid style fending off the respective challenges of Denis Wilmot and Tommy O’Sullivan. Dempsey and Wilmot got proceeding underway for a combined €8,400 and, after a tentative start by both, the Carbery youth forged sixty metres ahead after three, but it might have been more. Wilmot rallied well with a smashing sixth and looked to level only for Dempsey to produce one of those specials he is capable of. From a poor stand at the back point of ‘Curragh hill’ he unleashed a ferocious seventh, maybe a shade lucky of the left but its power was such that it recovered sufficiently to run to the ‘silvery gate’. Now a big bowl of odds down, Wilmot made a brave attempt with a tightly cut ninth and had a small chance of levelling with his next but couldn’t get the trajectory right and the bowl of odds stayed between them to the ‘steps’. A few chances came again for the Bandon man with Dempsey taking four to ‘Ballyhilty’ but no inroads were made and the home camp were off to a winning start. Tim Young and Tommy O’Sullivan engaged then on the downward route for a whopping €35,600 total stake. A real see-saw struggle ensued. Young missed sight with his opener and looked in big trouble when O’Sullivan went clear. He recovered to lead the score with a massive third aided by a poor second from O’Sullivan. Young was in control when O’Sullivan missed sight at the ‘steps’ and held big law again on the rise to ‘Curragh hill’ In another turnaround O’Sullivan fired a massive cast along the flat to regain the fore bowl and had the score in his grasp facing down to the ‘council-yard gates’. A scattered effort here brought it back to level and it was Young with a thundering drive who led again by seventy with three to go. O’Sullivan hopped the kerb twice but Young still had a bit to do to keep his advantage. He did so with very fast twelfth which held the centre on the rough surface. It was enough to take the spoils from a terrific contest. Paul O’Reilly was meticulous in his bowl of odds victory over Donal O’Riordan in the third of Saturday’s contests. The northern contingent added hugely to the weekend’s festivities and O’Reilly gave his supporters plenty to cheer about. O’Riordan, to his credit, made an excellent start and might have been further ahead against a lesser opponent as both reached ‘Curragh hill’ in five. Having regained the lead with a fine seventh, the Bantry man should have extended his odds with a better eighth and was left to rue when O’Reilly, with pin-point accuracy, hit the ‘steps’ in ten to rise a bowl of odds. It was a decisive turning point as the Armagh man held his lead to the finish. They played for a total of €13,100. In the last of Saturday’s scores, Kenneth Murphy defeated Edmund Sexton for a €13,420 total. Sexton, sportingly filling for the absent Conor Creedon, missed out the first bend and Murphy was away to a bowl of odds lead. In a score marred by too many ‘called bowls’ the Kinsale man won by the shot of odds.
Armagh had a second win on Sunday morning when, in damp conditions, Eugene McVeigh defeated Denis O’Sullivan in the last shot. For a €10,000 total, this was a cracking contest. McVeigh, well ahead after six, made two uncharacteristic blunders that cost him the lead, but recovered well to keep it level in ten each to the ‘steps’. O’Sullivan’s effort to sight here was one of the shots of the weekend. McVeigh had the better of it on the straight to ‘Ballyhilty’ and held a bowl lead for the last shots. O’Sullivan hit a mighty cast here, but McVeigh held his nerve and beat the line with his fourteenth. Another big local winner was Donie Harnedy who defeated his long-time rival, Johnny O’Driscoll, by a bowl of odds in the second of Sunday morning’s scores. The Skibb man went a bowl clear after four but lost ground on the rise to ‘Curragh Hill’. O’Driscoll came ahead and looked to have it in his hands throwing down for the ‘Skibb sign’. His tenth cracked left and he lost the lead at a crucial juncture. Harnedy beat a big eleventh and took advantage of another misplay by O’Driscoll to win by a bowl of odds. They played for a €12,400 total. At the day’s end, Roy Shannon, whose wife, Linda, is Chairperson of Skibbereen Geriatric Society, thanked sponsors, West Cork Distillers, players and punters and all who supported the weekend’s endeavours.
The women’s intermediate championship progressed under its league format at the weekend. Ballinacarriga hosted the Group A clash of Hannah Cronin and Julianne Hayes on Sunday morning and certainly, Togher Cross challenger, Hannah, set down a marker with a terrific performance. Julianne stayed gamely in touch but Hannah’s twelve shots down to ‘Finn’s corner’ represented excellent bowling for the road and yielded the winner’s point. Julianne has a most win score now with Helen Whyte at The Clubhouse. Regional junior A championships are always high profile scores and in Mid Cork, Sean Murphy made a winning start as he claimed the victory over Aidan Desmond at Templemartin. Lack of score practice probably militated against Desmond as a sluggish start saw Murphy race to a two-bowl lead at ‘Slynne’s Corner’. Despite a game effort, there was no comeback for Desmond as Murphy powered to a convincing win. Sean Murphy plays Denis Wilmot in the Mid junior A semi-final. In the City division, junior A round-robin, Patrick Stokes defeated Cian Boyle in the last shot of a hard-fought contest. They played for a total of €4,200. Also, in the City at Paddoes in novice Paul Kennedy defeated Vincent Moynahin by two and Garry Maguire defeated Fergus French. At Curraheen, Noel Gould defeated Pat O’Donovan by a bowl for €2,000 and, in a return double, David Walsh/Darragh O’Donovan defeated Stephen Bowen/Johnny Curtin, last shot, for €1,900. In Mid Cork novice D at Ballinacurra on Friday, Adrian Wilmot defeated Martin Cronin and, in a return, Colm O’Regan defeated Tommy Maloney, one bowl, for €700. In Mid novice D at Beal na mBlath, Ger O’Leary defeated Michael Desmond, last shot, for €700. In D too at Dunderrow, Donnacha O’Donovan won from Lee Collins. In North Cork, novice veteran at Ballinagree, Eugene O’Sullivan defeated Jim Martin for a €360 stake. Back the road, John McSullivan defeated Mickey McAuliffe, last shot for €300. In the Gaeltacht division a big clash at Baile Bhuirne on St. Patrick’s Day saw Darren Kelly come out on top in his confrontation with Noel Murphy. They played for a €2,400 total. In novice veteran Paudie Murphy won from John Lucey. A girls U18 first rounder at Clondrohid saw Ailbhe O’Shea and Darcey O’Brien engage. A fiercely competitive shot for shot battle ensued with Macroom girl, Ailbhe, shading it in the final exchanges.
In West Cork, championship scores at different ends of the age scale were held. At Ardcahan in U16 Shane Hurley won from Luke McCarthy (Durrus) and Eoin Hurley (Kilronan) won from Stephen Hourihane. Togher Cross hosted a cracking U18 first round tie. Last year’s U14 county winner, Daniel O’Sullivan, successfully adapted to the ‘28’ staving off a terrific challenge from Finian Hurley in their U18 first rounder. O’Sullivan’s excellent start gave him a two-bowl cushion after ten but he needed it as Hurley fired a succession of lengthy drives to close the gap. Daniel from Knockduff held on for a bowl of odds win. At Drimoleague in novice veteran, Con McCarthy defeated Vincent Ellis.
A big tournament clash in the Hancy Hubbard Cup at Beal na Morrive on Friday saw Andrew O’Callaghan, with a top-notch performance defeat Wayne Parkes by almost a bowl for €2,600. In a return score at Whitechurch, Paul Butler defeated Mark Long, last shot, for €2,400 and at Jagoe’s Mills, Gary O’Sullivan defeated Colm O’Regan by a bowl for €3,600.
Shannonvale was the venue for the return, after a three-year hiatus, of Ból Chumann’s post-primary school’s competitions. Hosted on a blissfully fine spring Tuesday morning March 14th, the event brought 140 students from centres across West Cork some more experienced than others in the skills of the game, but all determined to give of their best. St Gobnait’s, Ballyvourney, were leading overall school winning both senior girls and junior boys’ classifications and taking second place in senior boys after their high-powered trio of Liam Murphy, Cillian Kelleher and Liam Twomey were pipped by twenty six metres by Clonakilty Community Collage’s finely tuned Cillian Twohig, Eoin O’Sullivan and Peter O’Sullivan. For coach and mentor, Micheal O’Sullivan it was a continuation of a great run of successes for his school as his team then comprised of David Hegarty, Kieran O’Sullivan and Eoghan Barrett were also winners at the competitions last hosting, October 2019. The Ballygurteen O’Sullivan’s were to the fore again and with 2020 All-Ireland U14 winner, Twohig, showing excellent form they reeled in long-time leaders, St Gobnait’s to score a winning target of 1,794 metres. Maria Immaculata Community College, on paper looked the ones to beat but a few of the wayward variety cost them and Brian Horgan, Eoin McCarthy and Mark Deane finished 20 further back on 1,707. That was still a creditable performance in a grade that had sixteen teams starting. St. Gobnait’s senior girls, Darcy and Lauren O’Brien and the very capable Abby Lynch were in splendid form winning their category by 79 metres. There was a real battle for second place with Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty (Margaret Sexton, Ellen Sexton and Niamh O’Sullivan) coming in with just two metres to spare on Coachford Community College (Ailbhe O’Shea, Rachel Lucey and Rosin O’Riordan) 1,210 to 1,208. Six teams competed. Bowling of a very high standard featured in the junior cycles. Complete masters in the boys were St. Gobnait’s who had All-Ireland winners Ross O’Brien and Cathal Creedon in their ranks. Both were outstanding as indeed was Jack O’Sullivan who contributed hugely to their winning tally of 1,740 almost 250 ahead of Rosscarbery’s Mount St. Michael’s. David O’Sullivan, Sean Cuinnea and Adam Baker. MICC, Dunmanway (Daniel O’Sullivan, Brian O’Sullivan and Eoin Hurley) were third on 1,396. Thirteen teams competed in this category. These annual competitions are rarely completed without MICC, Dunmanway, achieving top spot in at least one of the categories and it was their junior girls who held the fort on this occasion. Drinagh’s Emma Hurley, current county U14 champion was a big performer and with Kimi Bosna and Niamh O’Connell also in excellent form a winning total of 1,105 metres was achieved. St. Brogan’s College, Bandon, (Sophie Murphy, Sinead Hickey, Leila Foley) were just thirty metres back in second place. Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty, (Laura Sexton, Sinead Walsh, Lucy Kirby) were a credible third form eleven competing teams. Chair Bol Chumann, Michael Brennan and Ladies Committee leader Caroline O’Leary thanked all who competed and encouraged those trying their hand for the first time to return for next year’s event. Club and regional personnel helped run the competitions.