THE countdown to the 15th European Championships has begun in earnest with the announcement of the panel of players who will be charged with preserving our place as the leading nation in road bowling and Dutch Moors disciplines.
The event takes place at Ootmarsum, The Netherlands from May 6th to 8th.
Those selected face an enviable task in emulating the successes attained in 2008 and 2012, which restored our status following a lean period post 1988, but the panel does contain many of the leading lights who helped turn the tide just as the German associations were beginning to dominate, particularly at our own road game.
There too, in a coaching and advisory role, is Christy Mullins, who has been instrumental in bringing the best out of every panellist in recent championships. He is assisted in this capacity by one of those selected, Billy McAuliffe, and preparations have already begun with a detailed training schedule set out. Both have clearly stated their determination that every effort will be made to maintain our current status.
Dan McCarthy has a similar role with the youth team while Geraldine Daly and Gretta Cormican have responsibility for senior ladies and U18 girls.
The management teams have brought Pat Reynolds – of B2A, personal trainer and health expert – aboard and his expertise will further develop the potential of those travelling.
The men’s team will be under closest scrutiny. They are generally the standard bearers and comprise 13 in number.
David Murphy leads the way here. A winner of individual gold on the road in the 2008 here in Cork and 2012 in Pesaro, Italy, he is going for an unprecedented three-in-a-row and is well capable of achieving it. His brother Aidan won gold in the Dutch Moors event in Pesaro and is a proven competitor at international events.
Edmund Sexton, Eamonn Bowen, James O’Donovan, Wayne Callanan and Gary Daly have all given towering performances in European gold-winning Irish teams and form the backbone of this latest selection.
Michael Bohane, after his championship winning year, Bandon’s Brian Wilmot and Drinagh’s Donncha O’Brien complete a strong Cork selection who will be complimented by Thomas Mackle and Martin Toal, Armagh.
Gold medal winner at Pesaro, Carmel Ryan heads the ladies’ line-up with Catriona O’Farrell-Kidney, another with individual gold medals to her name, also featuring. Here too Armagh’s Kelly Mallon will be focused on winning the only crown not yet in her collection that of European champion.
Cian Shorten won gold on the road in boys’ U18 in Italy and the current team has another from Mid Cork who could be well in the running. Tom O’Donovan, county U16 champion, leads the way with the youths while multiple All-Ireland winner David Devlin comes with a big reputation from Armagh.
The Cork girls’ U18 trio of Chloe O’Halloran, Maria Nagle and Katie Sexton is one of the strongest ever and, with a still unnamed representative joining up from Armagh, the quartet should be well capable of equally the outstanding performances of four year ago when Megan Collins took individual gold.
In a motivational address to his troops on Monday night last Christy Mullins warned that our European rivals, chastened after Irish superiority in successive championships, will come with all guns blazing on roads and tracks with which they will be very familiar.
The German Loft – the third of the disciplines played for in these championships – is almost exclusively the preserve of the German associations, VSHB and FKV, among whom the rivalry is intense.
The full team selections are as follows:
Senior men: David Murphy, Aidan Murphy, Edmund Sexton, James O’Donovan, Gary Daly, Eamonn Bowen, Brian Wilmot, Donnacha O’Brien, Wayne Callanan, Michael Bohane, Billy McAuliffe, Thomas Mackle, Martin Toal.
Senior ladies: Carmel Ryan, Catriona O’Farrell/Kidney, Geraldine Daly, Louise Collins, Emma Hickey, Claire O’Sullivan, Kelly Mallon, Erin Connelly.
U18 boys: Tom O’Donovan, Eoin Healy, Jordan O’Sullivan, Sean Kiely, David Devlin.
U18 girls: Chloe O’Halloran, Maria Nagle, Katie Sexton.