REDEMPTION for Ireland’s bowlers came with spectacular performances on the road at Suderhastedt on a super Sunday that will live long in the memory.
The recent 16th European Bowling Championships, that after two days of competition in north Germany had not quite lived up to Irish expectations, concluded with gold medals for Seamus Sexton, who beat 50 contenders to win the senior event thanks to a truly astounding closing sequence, and for Darragh Dempsey and Rachel Kingston who on Sunday morning reignited the Irish challenge with thrilling victories in the boys’ and girls’ events.
Seamus Sexton would not have been on many people’s radar to succeed David Murphy as European champion, but this is a stage that the great bowling family from North Cork has a natural affinity with.
The new champion may have received some inspiration from above. His late father, Seamus (Sen), was a revered figure at these championships having won gold on the road at successive games (1974 and 1977) and he was there to cheer his son to youth Moors success at Westerstede in 2004.
Young Seamus Sexton would not have been overawed and, even if his opening brace did not signal what was to come, there was a sense that he was about to produce something special. He was on big figures after six, passing 1200 metres when a beautifully judged seventh around ‘the bales’ ran for a huge distance. Sexton was the fourth of ten senior men and the early target of 1909.5 posted by The Netherland’s Raymond Borggreve – in Aidan Murphy’s group – had not been challenged.
Sexton’s eighth on the rising road was perfect and he was within reach. Yet, it was his final two, covering almost 600 metres, that not only beat the Dutchman’s mark out of sight but set a target of 2323.9 that would not be matched by those that followed.
Simon Quathammer, of German association FKV, in James O’Donovan’s group was magnificent, too, winning individual silver on 2159 but the Bandon man, in score six, chased him down to within 23 metres and his reward was a podium place and a bronze medal.
German Ralf Look in the last score out, with David Murphy who played after intensive treatment, did threaten Sexton’s mark after an explosive opening but finished fourth. The three-time champion from Brinny gave his all for the cause and was there for the youths, too, but was not at his bowling best. Thomas Mackle, many people’s fancy to win, was superb until his seventh shot and finished seventh. Michael Bohane was next best while Martin Coppinger started explosively but got derailed with a fourth shot that didn’t run. Gary Daly, Tim Young, Aidan Murphy and Eamonn Bowen ensured a team gold for the Irish.
Fittingly, it was the Italian, Nicola Altea, who won the best first throw competition for a new trophy dedicated to the late Mauritzio Della Constanza, former President of the International Bowlplaying Association and chief organiser of the Pesaro Games in 2012. Nicola's opening cast measured 296 metres.
An individual gold medal at these championships is a coveted achievement and ensures a certain degree of immortality in the bowling game. The Irish contingent were still seeking a first when the girl’s road bowling event began on Sunday morning. Although Meghan Collins and Maria Nagle had been successful in the previous two internationals there was no guarantee of a repeat, given the upsurge of interest in our game among the continentals.
Rachel Kingston from Dunmanway faced down that formidable challenge with a superb display. Her magnificent eighth shot was the catalyst, and she won the gold by 60 metres from her Dutch rivals Britt Rolink and Sophie Koebrugge in second and third place. Rachel’s total was 1,407.9 for her ten shots. Caoimhe Rafferty and Margaret Sexton in fifth and ninth place ensured gold for Ból Chumann’s team.
Darragh Dempsey carries the burden of expectation on his young shoulders every time he performs. A groin injury required constant treatment throughout the weekend, much of which was administered by physios from the European federations. A bronze on the Moors on Friday was followed by a brilliant fourth place in the German Loft on Saturday but the big one was his own game on Sunday. The Skibb boy delivered in spades.
Twenty from the competing nations started, many powerful performers from the German and Dutch associations, but all were left behind as Dempsey scorched to 525 metres with two blistering opening shots. There would be no let up as shot after shot increased his lead. He had brought sizable support from his Carbery base and was cheered to the skies as he scorched to 2143 metres in a relentless display of power bowling.
Darragh’s nearest rival was Marian Jahnke of FKV, 260 metres further back. Moors champion Haulke Roolfs, also FKV, was third. Tommy O’Sullivan (7th), Conor Lucey (8th) and Jamie Kelleher (11th) were high enough in the ranking to give Ból Chumann team gold by 20 metres from FKV.