Coppinger wins his fourth All-Ireland senior title as Cork bowlers dominate
MARTIN Coppinger is the top man in senior bowling for 2017, a worthy champion having blown away the challenge of Bryan O'Reilly on the Madden road on Sunday afternoon.Â
Exuding the air of man on a mission, he made no secret of his ambition to take a fourth All-Ireland crown and did so in impressive style having weathered a spirited opening by the Ulster champion.
O'Reilly was up for the battle and won the opening shots by 20 metres and then pushed that out to 40 after Coppinger caught the left too soon with his second. That margin stayed between them after five to the âbus shelter' with O'Reilly from a better stand not increasing his odds at this point. It was at this juncture Coppinger started to rumble.Â
A huge sixth shot to the âpipe corner' cut O'Reilly's lead to five metres and it was the precursor to an onslaught. Coppinger's seventh to âBarrett's avenue' brought him ahead for the first time and, when he followed up with a monstrous eighth to the âhollow', the balance had tilted in his favour to the tune of a bowl and 1 one hundred metres advantage.Â
A massive touch with his ninth off the kerb put him two up and, in unrelenting mode, he powered to a three-bowl lead after 14. Bryan O'Reilly was game to last but the best from any era would have struggled to stay with Coppinger's bowling. The Ulster champion sportingly conceded shortly after Coppinger's perfectly executed 14th out of âAlbert's corner'.Â
Fergal McCreesh, an All-Ireland novice 2 winner at Drogheda in 2015, gave Ulster their only success from the Madden All-Ireland series when he captured the veterans (over 50s) title. Cork champion Jim Coffey struck an off-day, misplaying each of his first four and with McCreesh belying his lowly grading status with some excellent shot-playing, the odds on Coffey soon mounted. A bowl down after four, that margin doubled when McCreesh fired a super sixth to the âpipe corner'. An accidental block hindered Coffey as he threatened a comeback and, with McCreesh staying steady the veteran's championship came back to Ulster by a margin of close to three bowls.
Cork's magnificent winning run was extended on Sunday morning when Hannah Sexton retained her U16 crown after a finely contested encounter with Geraldine Kiernan. The Timoleague girl got the dream start going a bowl up after four but it was under that after two more exchanges as the Ulster champion upped her game. Hannah Sexton needed to follow a huge ninth to keep her lead intact and was again pressurised when Kiernan lined big throw on the incline away from the â'bus shelter'. A magnificent second last countered that comeback attempt and the South West champion ran out a comfortable one bowl winner.
Saturday's clean sweep for Cork's champions came on the strength of a quartet of outstanding performances. The last of the day was the junior B final and, with the host association desperately seeking a first win, they were denied by one of their own. Kevin McQuaid was strongly fancied to the tune of a 5,000 total stake and did indeed put Cork's champion Terry Mallon to the pin of his collar but, in those crucial closing exchanges, it was the Armagh city native representing his adopted county who delivered when it mattered.Â
The contest highlighted a remarkable contrast in styles with Mallon utilising the traditional Ulster underarm method while the Ulster champion had perfected the full Cork style swing.Â
In a score of swaying fortunes, Mallon went a bowl up after six but three outstanding efforts from McQuaid wiped that out and it was the Ulster champion who led by almost a bowl beyond halfway. Mallon soon regained the initiative and looked to recover his earlier bowl lead but once again McQuaid responded to close the gap to 20 metres.Â
Crucially for the northern camp, a misplay in the shots to âAlbert's corner' was to derail McQuaid's hopes. Cork's Gaeltacht's champion seized his opportunity to pull ahead and, with an error free closing sequence, won the All-Ireland junior B crown by a bowl of odds.
Mairead O'Driscoll thrilled her big following with another five-star showing as she concluded a wonderful campaign with the All-Ireland intermediate championship. Carrying superior power in her bowling, the Cork and Carbery champion had the measure of Emma Jane O'Neill from the start. Her opening four set her stall out and she raced to a bowl lead after that initial burst. Emma Jane responded well in the next segment keeping the margin to the shot in the bowling to the âbus shelter'.Â
Around the half-way point, past the mark known as âRed Bray', Mairead excelled again with a series of excellent casts that almost doubled her lead. Emma Jane fought it to the finish but Mairead was assured and won convincingly by two bowls of odds.
Jordan O'Sullivan won the U16 crown from Ruairi Hughes and, in doing so, came with a towering second half performance that eventually shook off the game northerner.Â
Hughes, defending his title, won the opening shots well and still led after two even after O'Sullivan recovered with a massive second. They duelled splendidly in the next exchanges, Hughes gamely staying in front when beating big shots by the Cork champion in the process.Â
Two metres separated after seven to âBarrett's' before O'Sullivan edged ahead with his eighth to the âpipe corner'. Then, in a score changing sequence, O'Sullivan seized on a rare Hughes error with a powerful cast to the âbus shelter'. It pushed him a bowl up and he held it comfortably over the closing shots.
Conor O'Donovan got the visitors off to the ideal start winning the U12 title from Cathal McGuire in the opening score on Saturday morning. A finalist also last year at Lyre, Cathal made a determined effort to atone for that defeat but Belgooly boy Conor has had a tough championship here in Cork and had those durable qualities that saw him through a competitive joust. More or less level for the first five, O'Donovan broke away with a big shot to âBarrett's' and finally went a shot up after nine to âJohnny's corner'. Hopes of comfortable Cork win were quickly quashed when the Ulster champion knocked the bowl of odds with three to go. McGuire came again with a huge second last that cut the gap to thirty metres. The northerner's last was good too but missed the finish and the title was won when Conor O'Donovan, with a bit to do, pinged an excellent final effort that passed the last line.