2020 represents a significant milestone for bowling as it marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of ladies’ competitions (championship and tournament) for the growing number of women bowlers who had taken up and developed a keen interest in the sport.
The Carbery division embraced this from the start with many from the region showing their prowess in what was fast becoming a very competitive arena. Sandra Dempsey was first to make the breakthrough.
Having won the first junior championship in 1982, the Bauravilla player was soon established in senior ranks, winning county and All-Ireland titles in 1990. Her county win came at The Miles after a great score with former Association chairperson Susan Barry, while All-Ireland glory was attained on her home road, Bauravilla, after a titanic battle with Ulster champion Rosin Toal-Mackle. Sandra has also been part of Ból Chumann’s international teams (1996, 2000, and 2004).
Helen Whyte, Reenascreena, emerged from the underage ranks to become a major player in senior women’s bowling. Helen won the county senior championship in 2004. In the year previous she achieved a unique double when winning both intermediate and U18 All-Ireland championships, defeating the upcoming Kelly Mallon in the latter. It was her second U18 crown having also won when she was 15 years old in 2001. Helen’s bowling career was set in motion when she won county U12 in 1998 and U16 in 2002.
Rosscarbery woman Emma Fitzpatrick is another who has had a huge impact in women’s bowling and has come within a whisker of county senor honours. Emma emulated Helen Whyte’s achievement, attaining double All-Ireland success when winning both U18 and intermediate in 2006. The year previous she won the U16 crown and has represented Ból Chumann consistently at international events. Emma was in the record books from an early age, winning double U12 county honours in 2000 and 2001 and, in U14, (2002 and ’03).
Dan McCarthy coordinates Carbery’s underage sector and has overseen outstanding talents gain prominence in recent years at both underage and adult levels. Mairead O’Driscoll from Castletownsend hit the high spots early, winning both U12 and U14 in 2009 before going on the capture All-Ireland honours in U18 on a thunderous August Bank holiday weekend at Portmor-Blackwatertown 2014. Straight to intermediate Mairead won national honours in that grade, also on northern territory, in 2017 and was a semi-finalist in last year’s senior championship.
Rosscarberey’s Maria Nagle has blazed a trail at underage level winning county U12 (2010), U14 (2012, ’13), U16 county and All-Irelands (2014, ’15) and U18 (2016). A quick transition to adult grades has seen Maria now in senior ranks having won the county and All-Ireland intermediate championship last year. Significantly too, the Rosscarbery girl is Carbery’s only individual European champion having won youths’ gold on the road in Ootmarsum 2016.
Leap’s Nicola O’Sullivan has been a big player for the region. Having been an underage champion in 2003, Nicola captured the junior county at Clondrohid in 2011 and in the following year took the intermediate crown at The Pike when, buoyed by a big Carbery support, she got the better of Lorraine Hurley.
Carbery’s county honours list doesn’t end there. Reenascreena’s Bernadette O’Regan won junior in 2002; Michelle Ryan was a splendid U14 county champion in 2007; Triona Murphy is an outstanding prospect as she showed when winning U12 in 2013; Natalie Dempsey too is one to watch having showed ability in abundance when winning the 2016 U12 county.
Bauravilla’s Michelle Crowley, coming from a family steeped in the traditions of the game, captured the county U12 in 2012 after a great battle at Drinagh with future champion Hannah Sexton. So many more Carbery ladies have made their mark, regional champions like Mary Coughlan, Claire O’Brien and Rachel Whelton among them. Fiona Love and Olivia Bowen have also been prominent. Their achievements inspire a younger generation. many of whom were enjoying the region’s new facility at Skibbereen Showgrounds up to the time of lockdown.