The year would take on a very different complexion if Munster champions could win the three most prestigious titles on offer — the men’s intermediate and Junior A and the women’s senior.
Thomas Mackle, given his record against Munster senior players, will be favoured to beat Trevor O’Meara in the intermediate final on Sunday. Mackle came through a testing Ulster campaign. He looked to have the title wrapped up, before being pushed to a sixth score by Paul O’Reilly and Peadar Toal. He has all the credentials: speed, composure and hunger to spare.
He will also have strong home support and, given his Cork connections, some southern followers too. But his form tends to fluctuate and if he is not on his game on Sunday, O’Meara will prevail.
There is no cooler bowler in a tight spot than O’Meara. His performance in last Sunday’s Munster final underlines his capacity to produce the goods on the big occasion. He will love the challenge and will relish being outsider. Mackle will also discover O’Meara’s bowls have a lot more drive than is often recognised.
Reigning senior champion Kelly Mallon has a big challenge too in Catriona O’Farrell-Kidney.
Mallon has dominated senior women’s bowling in much the way that Kidney dominated in the late 1990s and early Noughties. Mallon’s team knows the road intimately; the challenge for Kidney’s is to bridge that knowledge gap.
Liam O’Sullivan would be a very popular winner of the Junior A title, but he would be foolish to underestimate Donal Daly’s challenge. This is a road that favours Ulster players even more than Knappagh.
Meghan Collins will have a chance to make 2012 a very special year if she can add the All-Ireland U18 title to her European Championship crown. She got out of jail in the Munster final, but luck plays a part in every great campaign.
David Devlin will have strong support to defeat Patrick O’Donoghue in the U14 final. In the U12 final, Michael Nyhan faces Caoimhín McGlennon.
All-Ireland Series II, Markethill Road, Tassagh, Armagh, tomorrow: 12pm, Boys U14: D Devlin (Ulster) v P O’Donoghue (Munster). 1.30pm, Girls U18: S Kiernan (Ulster) v M Collins (Munster). 3pm, Junior A Men: D Daly (Ulster) v L O’Sullivan (Munster).
SUNDAY, 11am Senior Women: K Mallon (Ulster) v C O’Farrell-Kidney (Munster). 1.30pm, Boys U12: C McGlennon (Ulster) v M Nyhan (Munster). 3pm, Intermediate Men: T Mackle (Ulster) v T O’Meara (Munster).