Munster senior champ Sexton keen to learn from All-Ireland final loss to great Kelly Mallon
HANNAH Sexton calls it an eye-opener, but one she vows to learn from.
Her first All-Ireland senior women’s championship final at Ballincurrig didn’t go to plan recently. She was pitted against the greatest women’s road bowler ever, Armagh’s Kelly Mallon, and this score went as predicted.
But while Mallon bowled her way to an incredible tenth senior All-Ireland title, her 20-year-old West Cork opponent was new to this stage and trying to take it all in.
This was Sexton’s first year at senior level and she exceeded her own expectations by winning the Munster title at the first attempt – and that qualified the Timoleague bowler into the All-Ireland final.
‘Kelly was impeccable,’ says Sexton, recalling their battle at Ballincurrig.
‘Considering she played a (football) championship match with Armagh the day before, then to come and win her tenth All-Ireland, you have to acknowledge just how good she is.
‘It was a real experience for me to get that far and be up against someone as talented and experienced as Kelly. It was a real eye-opener. You are going up another level. When you are bowling Kelly you need to push yourself up to another level, almost above senior.
‘I have to take that on board and push myself further for the next few years.’
Sexton tried to soak up as much knowledge as she could watching Mallon in action up close.
‘Thinking back on the final and how composed and steady she was during the entire score, you can see the experience that she has,’ says Sexton, and that experience is key. It was the master and the apprentice in that final, the greatest up against the new kid on the block who is coming off the back of a trophy-laden underage career. Sexton has continued her winning streak at adult level by winning Munster intermediate and senior titles in 2021 and ’22. Her performance in the Munster final, against Veronica O’Mahony, highlighted her potential as she equalled the road record at Ballincurrig.
‘I didn’t even know the record on the road, to be honest,’ she says.
‘We were just throwing away. I was bowling out of my skin. Towards the second-last shot I was told I was on the record of the road. There was a mark on the tree at the end of the line where Silke Tulk had finished in 14 shots – and I was on that, too. For my first year as a senior to get that, I was delighted with myself.’
The target now is to take her game to the next level. That’s what she needs to do to compete with the likes of Mallon and to contend for the game’s big prizes. She will have the Queen of the Roads competition this October in Ballincurrig to test herself against the elite, again.
‘After winning Munster I get a straight pass into it, along with Kelly and there will be a player each from Germany and Holland coming over for that competition. That’s a senior women’s competition so it’s a chance for me to see what I am up against and to push myself again,’ she says, and it’s a chance to show she learned lessons from her debut All-Ireland senior women’s performance.