A GLORIOUS Gaeltacht treble along with an unexpectedly easy triumph for Denise Murphy yielded four victories for Cork in the recent All-Ireland series.
It didn’t all go Cork’s way, however. Thomas Mackle won the big one, depriving Caheragh man Michael Bohane of outright honours as the senior decider brought the curtain down on a hectic weekend in south Armagh.
Newtownhamilton was the Mecca and large crowds lined the roadway on both days. The senior final had captured the imagination of bowling followers everywhere and Bohane brought support in hundreds.
A grandstand finishing surge brought him close as he tested Mackle to the hilt over the closing quarter. While there may be a regret or two at chances missed in the opening half of the score, Bohane certainly gave his all and proved himself a worthy Cork and Munster champion.
Mackle followed a big opener of Bohane’s but a very poor second shot left him trailing by 90 metres. The Ulster champion narrowed the gap in the next exchanges but presented Bohane with a golden opportunity when he completely miscalculated his fifth.
To the disappointment of the Cork camp, their man did likewise, missing a very beatable mark to concede the lead for the first time. Other chances went a-begging when Mackle got no traction on his seventh and eight shots on the downward slope to the ‘slate-quarry bridge’.
Bohane still led as they played around the bend in nine before Mackle suddenly found form with a brilliant tenth throw that yielded a 100-metre lead. The Corkman reeled that in to 30 with a big cast to the hollow but, when Mackle fired a fabulous 14th to go 200 metres clear, it looked all up for the Cork champion. Bohane responded well with super 15th and 16th shots and Mackle needed another piledriver to ‘Chandler’s’ to maintain a handy advantage as the line neared. Bohane beat the line with his 19th, but Mackle had too much in hand and beat his mark comfortably. He is now a two-time winner of the Hughie Trainor Cup.
Denise Murphy was well-up for her intermediate joust with the youthful Shannon McGuire in the opening score on the Sunday morning. Shannon was well-backed, too, in the 11,200 total stake, but did not make the best of starts. She missed a beatable opening tip and trailed by 50 metres when her opponent fired a big second shot.
Murphy’s power on the rise was to have a big bearing on this contest. A brilliant fifth shot to ‘Barker’s road’ rose a bowl of odds and that very quickly doubled to two as Shannon got little distance from her sixth and seventh.
Not even a good 11th could derail Murphy’s charge and the odds continued to rise as she fired super 12th and 13th shots to the hollow by ‘Davidson’s’. The Michael McSweeney Cup was headed for Ballinagree long before the finish line was reached.
A contender for performance of the weekend was delivered by Liam Murphy of Ballyvourney, Gaeltacht’s splendid All-Ireland U16 champion. Oisin Gribben would have beaten most in an excellent showing but Murphy’s power and pace was just too much on the day.
After a misplay with his first when he was a shade fortunate to get a touch, Murphy fired an exceptional second shot to gain a big lead. Gribben responded with a brilliant third and it went shot for shot to the ‘bridge bend’. Gribben’s seventh touched nicely to the ‘quarry cross’ and it was in the melting pot until the Gaeltacht boy fired his score-winning response.
From blind sight, Murphy unleashed a powerful delivery that cannoned off the bridge wall to run almost another shot’s length up the rise. Gribben battled bravely to the line but Murphy, with confidence oozing, would not be denied as he passed the line in a record-breaking nine shots.
The junior B shoot-out between Aaron Hughes and Denis O’Sullivan was flagged as a stand-out fixture of the Newtown weekend as soon as the programme was announced. Representing the South-West region, O’Sullivan was fast off the mark, whipping a brilliant opening shot up the right-hand track. His next two were even better and this scintillating blitz yielded a full bowl of odds as Hughes looked in trouble. How the Navan Road clubman extricated himself will be remembered when the weekend’s highlights are recalled.
A massive fifth throw knocked the bowl and when O’Sullivan looked to regain it with a super sixth, Hughes beat that as well.
When the Cork champion, a shade unluckily, hit the back of the ‘slate quarry bridge’ with his seventh, it was the opening Hughes craved. He took it with aplomb, lining a sensational eighth that touched at the bridge and again off the kerbs. Suddenly he was in front.
Just over half-way, the rain descended but the epic battle continued. Hughes held his newfound lead beating big tips from O’Sullivan. The Ulster champion rose an 80-metre advantage with excellent effort into ‘Murphy’s brae’ and beat a big tip to the ‘car park entrance’ to hold vital yardage as they faced the line. His 14th over the line was another fine cast and it won him the Denis McGarry Cup and 2022 All-Ireland junior B championship.
The first two legs of Gaeltacht’s treble came in the weekend’s opening scores on the Saturday morning. At opposite ends of the age spectrum, Ross O’Brien and Tim Kelleher achieved their goals with varying degrees of effort.
Kelleher had to dig deep to bring the veterans (over 50s) championship and the Tony Murray Cup back to Cork. An engaging duel with Armagh’s Brian Kinchen saw the Gaeltacht man in the ascendancy in the early stages. Three big opening shots yielded 100 metres and that transferred to a bowl of odds lead after six.
Kelleher had big odds with it as they played around the ‘bridge’ but Kinchen came back with a super 11th to knock the bowl of odds. Thus it remained over the closing quarter. Kelleher needed focus as Kinchen proved a difficult challenge to shake off. The Corkman eventually won by the bowl of odds. The contest carried a 13,000 total (Euro/Sterling).
Ross O’Brien was an emphatic winner of the Dan Mackle Cup and the U12 championship. The Clondrohid boy had too much in his armoury for Ulster’s game champion Sean Lappin in the opening score of the All-Ireland series on the Saturday morning. From the off O’Brien exuded power and class as he raced to a two-bowl lead after three throws. Lappin tried to the end, but the gap widened with each throw, and, with the line in sight following a massive seventh, the Gaeltacht camp had its first champion of the weekend.
Lily O’Rourke got a great cheer following a wonderful performance in the girls’ U16 final. Cork’s Laura Sexton made a bright start, holding a slender lead after both fired big opening shots. When she opened a 60-metre gap with a big seventh to ‘Davidson’s’ it looked as if it might be her day, but Lily showed her pace in a magnificent response. Two excellent shots to the ‘bridge’ turned the contest in her favour and, despite Laura’s best efforts a bowl of odds came between them on the rise. Lily finished in brilliant style winning the Monsignor Horan Cup by a two-bowl margin.