The Noel Phair Cup meeting of Arthur McDonagh and Thomas Mackle ensured a packed road at Shannonvale on Sunday but the overwhelming feeling among the vast majority as a one-sided contest wound to its conclusion was one of disappointment that it had not lived up to its billing. Maybe not so much in the McDonagh camp as they reaped the bounty of the €36,000 total stake but for those expecting to see sparks fly between the current All-Ireland champion and his predecessor from 2020, there was none. Their opening shots were well-drilled, Mackle a shade unlucky to stay twenty metres hind of McDonagh’s fine effort and the stage seemed set for a rip-roaring encounter. The first indicator that it was not going to be Mackle’s day came with a very poor second that whipped right off the play and he was immediately almost a bowl down when McDonagh powered on with another big one. In mixed fare to the ‘quarry’, McDonagh held his lead but Mackle fired a good sixth that gave him a chance of levelling. It was not to be for the Armagh man as his seventh only ‘made’ ‘Buttimer’s entrance’ and his attempt for sight at ‘Desmond’s’ never got traction leaving him a bowl down near the half-way point as they faced up the rise. McDonagh offered opportunities with two average efforts as they played to ‘Kingston’s’ but these chances were spurned as Mackle, most uncharacteristically, got nothing going with a succession of shots on the rise and on to the flat. Mackle did counter a fine cast of McDonagh’s to ‘Tobins’s’, but missing sight for ‘Campbell’s’ left the Fermoy man in the clear to the tune of two bowls of odds. It was a lead he was never in danger of losing. Before the score got underway, a minute’s silence was observed in the memory of Michael Mallon, Portadown, a staunch Armagh bowling man who died suddenly at the weekend.
In senior action at Grange on Saturday Aidan Murphy avenged a 2022 championship defeat to Seamus Sexton when scoring a one bowl win over the North Cork man. This club fund-raiser carried a €7,000 total stake and was a good battle for most of the way. Crucial to Murphy’s victory was a classic fifth shot, pitched away and pulled to perfection around the bend to ‘DeBarra’s’. Prior to that, Sexton had overhauled Murphy’s early lead with a splendid fourth to sight at the ‘stud farm’. It was a shot that gave him a useful lead after his opponent misjudged his fourth. Murphy extricated himself with that fifth throw which put him back in front but Sexton was well there until his attempted ‘perley que’ on the downward slope failed to take its intended course. Murphy lofted an excellent seventh to sight at ‘the green’ and followed up with a massive eighth to ‘O’Sullivan’s’. These exchanges were decisive as they left Sexton trailing by a bowl of odds as they faced up to ‘Hodnett’s’. Sexton came with a super tenth throw that knocked odds but his follow-up did run kindly and Murphy restored his bowl lead. The closing stages hinged on the bowl of odds with Murphy holding his lead to the finish.
In junior tournament scores at Ballygurteen there were wins for David O’Mahony and Ger O’Driscoll. Saturday’s score saw O’Mahony eclipse Carbery’s rising star, Darragh Dempsey, who was a shade off his Rosscarbery form of the pervious Sunday. The underdog in the €2,000 total stake, O’Mahony took big odds around the first bend as, in contrast to Cahermore, Dempsey made a hesitant start. The Mid Cork man still held good odds by the women’s lane before Dempsey found his groove with two big efforts, the second of which brought him to the fore for the first time. The Skibb youth didn’t maintain his momentum and quickly found himself in arrears again as O’Mahony fired a couple of score-winning shots as the played to ‘O’Donovan’s corner’. Almost a bowl to the good at this point, the FiveMileBridge man, powered on to take the spoils and a place in the second round. Newcestown’s Ger O’Driscoll was impressive in his Sunday win over West Cork’s junior A, Peter Murray. He was a bowl to the good at the ‘lane’ in six and held his odds to the finish. Noel O’Regan and Jimmy Collins had a good battle at Ballinacarriga in a junior C tournament semi-final. Playing in from the main road, Togher Cross man, O’Regan, made a good start making the most of an error by Collins at the outward novice finish to go a bowl clear at ‘Finn’s corner’. Both bowled well to the ‘triangle’ at Manch but O’Regan held his odds to the bend at ‘O’Hare’s’. Collins came close with a huge cast to ‘McSweeney’s’ but was still fifty back facing the line. O’Regan held out for a big last shot win and will play Adrian Buttimer or Ger Connolly in the upcoming final. The stake at Ballinacarriga amounted to €800. There was a good contest at Beal na mBlath on Sunday between North Cork’s Sean Kiely and Newcestown’s James Kelleher. Going for a €2,400 total, Kelleher hit some excellent efforts beyond the ‘palms’ to rise a bowl of odds approaching ‘Bradfield’s cross’. Kiely levelled it with good bowling from this juncture and the contest went shot for shot to the line. Throwing first, Kelleher saw his final effort crack left leaving Kiely with only a handy tip to beat. The North Cork man made no mistake. In the return score here, Martin McSweeney, Rathcoole, made it a double for the North Cork camp when he defeated Paul Twomey, last shot, for €2,000.
Bol Chumann’s ladies committee host a special team event on Saturday next February 4th on the Froe Road, Rosscarbery. It is open to all female membership, adult, under-age and social club. Following on from the success of the November event at Dunderrow, the organisers hope for a good turn-out. The competitions also give the opportunity for pre-championship practice. Youths officer, David Murphy, has organised a trial session for Boys U12 and U14 at Castletownkenneigh on Saturday next at 3.00pm. The top four in both categories will represent Cork (Munster) in the inter-provincial series at Newcastle, Co. Dublin, on Saturday March 4th.
Championship action continued with Mid Cork joining West and North in progressing first round novice grades. Kilcorney hosted two North Cork novice D championship scores on Saturday. In the first of these, Tom Ahern got the better of Paul Twomey for a €500 total and this was followed by a win for Kanturk’s Brendan Cotter who got the better of Ryan Long for €640. In novice D at Ballinagree on Sunday, Shane Collins defeated Mark Sexton and Shane Corkery won from Gary Murphy. North Cork uniquely offer a second chance to those who lose out in their first-round scores in grades novice C, D and E. Mid Cork’s championships got underway with novice D scores at Ballinacurra, Upton, and Beal na mBlath. Lee Collins got his campaign off to a winning, start at Ballinacurra scoring a one bowl victory over Templemartin’s Tim Coughlan. Collins’ two-bowl cushion at the P&P entrance was enough to withstand Coughlan’s late rally. In the second of the day here, Sean Coughlan defeated Kinsale’s Pat Broderick in the last shot of a good score. At Beal na mBlath on Sunday, Ballineen’s Raymond O’Neill won from Niall O’Mahony Newcestown and Michael Desmond came through from his contest with Kevin Browne. West Cork again had a busy weekend.
On Saturday at Durrus, Cian Young, son of intermediate standard-bearer, Tim, made a winning start to his novice D campaign throwing well in a two-bowl victory over Vincent Ellis. Also, in D at Durrus, Kieran O’Driscoll overcame Paudie Hurley and, in the novice C championship, John O’Regan defeated Andy O’Sullivan in the last shot. Drimoleague hosted a big novice C clash when James Russell and Johnny Collins went head-to-head. The youthful Russell took the spoils here coming home a bowl of odds winner from last year’s championship finalist. In novice D at Drimoleague, an all Dunmanway clash, Tadg Crowley won from Oisin Murphy-Hurley. Crowley started well and was a bowl to the good at the ‘no-play lines’. Murphy-Hurley did not enjoy much luck with a few well-thrown efforts and Crowley’s consistency was decisive. In a third score at Drimoleague, Andy McCarthy defeated Peter Walsh, last shot, for €600.
Ból Chumann Ard Mhacha will host a Youth Development fund-raiser at Eglish, Co. Tyrone, on this coming weekend. The Ulster ruling body has undertaken an extensive programme with the aim to promote under-age bowling and have highlighted the six score series as a major support for their initiative. Eglish is of course the All-Ireland venue for 2023 and two of the travelling contingent, Tim Young and Brian Wilmot, will harbour hopes of a return as County intermediate champion on August Bank Holiday weekend. Wilmot features in what could well be the score of the weekend. His Saturday clash with the irrepressible Aaron Hughes, one of the north brightest prospects, has a 2.00pm throw-off time. Wilmot has shown excellent early season form with wins at Castletownbere, Lyre and Shannonvale and will need to stay on top of his game against a youthful exponent who has shown plenty in successive All-Ireland wins in the junior B and C grades. Saturday’s schedule starts at 10.30 with a senior joust between Armagh Bryan O’Reilly and Fermoy’s youthful prodigy, Patrick Flood and this is followed by a junior set-to between Ulster 2020 U18 champion, Darragh Gribben and experienced Bandonian, Denis Wilmot, brother of Brian. Bantry’s Tim Young gets Sunday’s selection underway when he takes on Paul O’Reilly at 10.30 in the second intermediate score of the weekend. This is followed by the junior B meeting of Ulster’s Patrick Mackle and Cork’s Jim Coffey. Senior standard-bearers Colm Rafferty, Armagh, and Cork’s Gary Daly round off the series when they go head-to-head at 2.00pm on Sunday afternoon.