HANNAH Sexton is relishing her latest opportunity to test herself against the best road bowlers in the game.
The 20-year-old Timoleague woman has taken the step up to the senior ranks in her stride this year, winning the Munster senior title at the first attempt, before advancing to the All-Ireland final.
In her own words that national final at Ballincurrig was an eye-opener, as the great Kelly Mallon from Armagh swept to glory, and a tenth senior women’s All-Ireland title.
But it was a huge learning experience for Sexton to bowl against Mallon, and the West Cork senior standard bearer right now will be back in the company of the game’s best at the 37th King and Queen of the Roads Festival at Ballincurrig later this month. It’s the Top Gun of road bowling – the best of the best from different countries battling it out.
‘It’s going to be a huge step-up, again,’ Sexton says.
‘The best from The Netherlands and Germany will be there, and Kelly Mallon, myself and two more will qualify as well. You’re up against the best. The European champion (Lindsay Leussink of NKB Holland) will be there. Kelly won a bronze at the Europeans.
‘It will be another huge occasion, the crowds there will be huge … and the noise, you have to be ready for it. For me, it’s another step in my first year as a senior.’
The three-day King and Queen of the Roads Festival will be an occasion to savour, but Sexton is there to do a job. She’s realistic, too. She knows she has improvements to make, both physically and mentally, but age is very much on her side.
‘After the All-Ireland final, when I was analysing my performance, a big positive is that I am only 20 and I’m not anywhere close to peaking yet,’ she explains.
‘All the bowlers I will be up against will be ten or more years older than me so I know I have a bit of catching up to do, but I’m not that far behind either. I know how much I have to do and having played against them I know what I need to do as well to get there, so that’s what I am pushing myself towards.’
Sexton knows she is capable of closing the gap, but realises it will take time. At the Europeans in Germany, ahead of the road bowling event, she threw a practice score with Kelly Mallon and Siobhan Mackle, both also on the Irish team. Mallon threw over 1500 metres, Sexton around 1300. She knew then she had to throw over 1500 to make any impression in the competition. That’s what she did, throwing over 1500 metres to top her qualifying group and finish fifth overall.
‘I proved to myself I could. I pushed myself to the limit. It showed me I can do it. There is that appetite to be better, even more so after this year. I want to see how far I can go,’ she says, and Sexton’s next chance to measure herself against the elite is just around the corner, with the Queen of the Road title up for grabs.
Hannah Sexton was presented with the Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star July monthly award to recognise her Munster senior-winning heroics in her first year at this grade.