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Thomas Mackle magic lights up Ból Fada action as Ulster makes home advantage count

April 6th, 2024 3:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Thomas Mackle magic lights up Ból Fada action as Ulster makes home advantage count Image
Thomas Mackle retained the Joe McVeigh Cup with victory over Aidan Murphy at the Ból Fada Festival in Armagh.

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THOMAS Mackle retained his grip on the Joe McVeigh Cup with a comprehensive two-bowl victory over Aidan Murphy at Keady-Tassagh on Sunday evening.

The favourite on home territory, Mackle gained leeway with his second and third shots and wasn’t headed at any point. Murphy had done well to come within metres of a big Mackle opener but didn’t get traction on his next two.

A big chance to close the gap came in the shots to ‘Twynam’s corner’, but the Corkman did not capitalise when the cup holder’s fourth crossed left. He was now a bowl of odds adrift. To his credit, Murphy fired excellent sixth and seventh shots to knock odds. Mackle was bowling with confidence and a cracking drive on to ‘McGeown’s height’s’ increased his margin to almost two bowls.

Murphy tried again with a big 11th cast only for Mackle to follow in like vein. The northerner’s consistency ensured there would be no way back for Murphy on this occasion.



When the action resumed on Sunday morning, the final day of the 2024 Ból Fada Festival, the Cork camp was badly in need of a win.

Tasked with reversing a losing sequence was All-Ireland intermediate champion and Player of the Year Brian Wilmot, a reliable performer who has more than held his own against northern opposition in past encounters. On the opposing side was Paul O’Reilly, one of Ulster’s most durable campaigners, also a previous All-Ireland intermediate winner and well-remembered for hitting sight at ‘darkwood’ turn, Derrinasafa, in a record-equalling eight shots on his way to junior A glory in 2011. They had a riveting battle for a combined 15,000.

Wilmot made a great start, leading by 80 metres after four but was reeled in by O’Reilly thanks to a fine touch with his sixth. O’Reilly’s majestic drive to the ‘creamery corner’ yielded rich dividends as he led then by almost a bowl of odds.

Wilmot played two brilliant shots to ‘McCann’s lane’ to level the contest once more but it was not to be for the Bandon native as his northern rival rallied again with a huge cast to ‘Murphy’s wall’. This was decisive for O’Reilly as he rose a bowl of odds at a crucial point. His win made it five on the trot for the home side.

It took the outstanding combination of Shane Crowley and Ciara Buckley to briefly break the Ulster stranglehold. In Sunday’s second score, the Carbery/North Cork duo took on Anthony McVeigh and current intermediate champion Aoife Trainor. Having built a commanding lead, the Cork duo survived a sensational comeback charge to take a last-shot victory. After a close quarter opening phase, Ciara’s big cast to ‘McCann’s’ gave the Cork pairing their first lead. Splendid play from Shane and Ciara to the ‘creamery corner’ put them almost out of sight, a full two bowls up but from here Aoife showed her battling qualities and with Anthony McVeigh coming into the picture, the big lead was gradually eroded.

Aoife’s thundering drive to the ‘piggeries’ cut the lead to 50 metres and a grandstand finish loomed. When Ciara missed the finish line it was down to McVeigh and Crowley for the last shots. The Cork youth held his nerve to win that final exchange and give the Cork punters a much-needed respite. They played for a total of €5,500.



Having been on the receiving end of a seven-two hammering at the 2023 Ból Fada Festival, Cork bowlers began Saturday’s programme well on the road to avenging that overall result. The day’s bowling would prove a game-changer.

Three up from Friday, Armagh gained quick retribution, winning all four on the Easter Saturday programme. Gavin Twohig has, over a long career, enjoyed remarkable success in northern territory with a string of wins up to as recent as February 3rd at Madden that have included All-Ireland intermediate victories on two occasions, making him one of the most reliable of Cork campaigners on weekends such as Ból Fada. The 2024 hosting proved the exception.  Pete Carr was ready and waiting and dominated their opening score clash on Saturday and ran out a deserving bowl-of-odds winner. The stakemoney amounted to 30,000 (euro-sterling).

The youthful Eugene McVeigh, a participant at the recent ‘Dowtcha Boy’ then took another from that Marsh Road weekend, Eamonn Bowen, in the day's second score on Saturday.

Saturday’s feature had senior men Colm Rafferty and Gary Daly renewing acquaintances. Daly’s recent run of good form indicated a great opportunity to turn the tables on Rafferty who had bested him by the narrowest of margins in their most recent encounters. It was not to be as, for a 20,000 stake, Rafferty dominated almost from the off. The northerner won by almost two to complete a clean sweep for his county men on Saturday.



A late winning surge by Eoghan Hickey and Ellen Sexton got the visitors off to the ideal start early on Good Friday. Michaela Greene and Jack O’Reilly, Ulster U18 and U12 champions, had the upper hand on their Cork counterparts for much of the weekend’s opening score but succumbed at the end after a combination of errors on their part and a strong finish by their rivals saw the victory go southwards.

Playing with confidence, the Greene/O’Reilly partnership started in a blaze, rising a bowl and 30 metres with their opening four. Sexton/Hickey reduced the arrears to 70 metres after eight, but Armagh were away again restoring their earlier advantage in the next exchanges.

Cork closed for the second time and then took a sensational lead when a couple of uncharacteristic errors by their northern rivals were pounced on. Sexton/Hickey held on for a last-shot win.

It would be the start of a good innings for the visitors. Wayne Parkes and Mark Toal then enjoined for an 18,000 total and it was a score filled with twists and turns as big leads were squandered by costly mistakes. Toal was first away, rising the bones of a bowl of odds with his opening two only for Parkes to level and lead with two extraordinary efforts to the ‘Esso sign’. A mistake then and Toal was back in front with a great shot to the ‘cap bowl’ but the northerner did not maintain his momentum and Parkes, from what looked like a losing position with four to go, reclaimed the front with a powerful third last. This time he held it to give the Cork camp a handsome victory.

Shane Collins and Barry O’Reilly renewed rivalry in the last of Good Friday’s scores. O’Reilly has been the bane of many a worthy Cork challenger in recent years and his All-Ireland junior C victory at Killea last September confirmed him as a hard-beaten opponent. Mallow’s Shane Collins has, since his defeat to O’Reilly in that championship, been on the up and up, winning a host of scores across the county and was well set to atone for his Waterford defeat. He did so in a comprehensive fashion. Hitting the ground running, Collins rose odds from the off. His opening four were exemplary and O’Reilly, not having one of his better days, found himself two bowls adrift at that early stage. Collins was relentless and the odds continued to mount before matters were terminated with the Cork junior C champion in complete control. They played for a 20,000 total.

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