If returning from injury was not a sufficient challenge he also drew European Moors champion Aidan Murphy in Pool B and they’ll slog it out for the only direct quarter-final slot in the group. The winner would hope to beat both Willie O’Donovan and Brian Wilmot, leaving their head-to-head to decide the pool winner.
Sport rarely follows such a neat pattern though. O’Donovan and Wilmot are capable of taking down their big name opponents, but it is unlikely that either would beat both. O’Donovan lives in Mayo and does not have regular top-level competition but Wilmot has a penchant for getting results against the odds.
David Murphy is the stand-out player in Pool A and if it runs to form the real battle will be about the order Edmund Sexton, Trevor O’Meara and Nicholas Carey finish. Carey is a wild card as he was injured for the last few campaigns and it may take him a while to find his feet — but Sexton or O’Meara won’t overawe him.
Pool C is the most finely balanced with any one of the four — Gary Daly, John Creedon, James Buckley, Christy Mullins — capable of winning. Mullins reached the last two Munster finals, but that will count for little. Daly is an early career senior who looks to be making steady progress. Creedon has shown great form while Buckley is the man of all the talents.
Pool D has just three players, James O’Donovan, Raymond Ryan and Éamon Bowen Jnr. Ryan is in his rookie year but could emerge as group winner. O’Donovan has dual commitments of bowling and hurling and Bowen’s form has been poor this year.
Meanwhile, the Ulster Executive confirmed Port Mór/Blackwatertown on the Armagh/Tyrone border as the venue for the All-Ireland senior final. The road hosted the All-Ireland senior and intermediate finals in 1979. The late Christy O’Driscoll reputedly played the two longest bowls ever in an All-Ireland final from McGreil’s path to McCuskar’s in his intermediate final win over Al Mallon.
The Michael Cusack Interprovincial Cup will again be part of the Thurles Sarsfields International hurling festival on July 12, the Friday of the All-Ireland finals in Armagh. The festival also includes a lofting competition with a winner’s prize of €500.
Michael O’Leary and Wayne Callanan both had last shot wins in the Munster Intermediate championship. O’Leary beat Bill Daly at Carraig na bhFear on Saturday and Callanan beat David Hubbard in near arctic conditions at Glanworth on Sunday.
At Carraig na bhFear O’Leary won the opening shot, but the lead changed hands in each of the next three tips to the doctors. They made Daunt’s in two more with Daly just fore. O’Leary’s next beat Fitzgerald’s and Daly increased his lead with a good bowl towards the creamery.
It swung back to O’Leary when he made the line with his next and Daly missed. Daly compensated with a good loft, but O’Leary went almost a bowl clear at the top of the hill and was almost two in front at the novice line. Daly knocked the bowl with a great shot to light facing the cross and cut the odds to 20m with his second last. His last bowl was too far right and missed the line, which O’Leary beat.
Callanan beat Hubbard by just 10 metres at Glanworth. He won the first shot well, but Hubbard levelled with a great second towards the Dairy cross. Callanan made Clontinty boreen in five, while Hubbard just missed it. The former increased his lead to almost a bowl at Ahern’s and then missed the next bend and Hubbard cut the odds to 20m. They were level at Ballinamona turn. After Hubbard just reeled him in, Callanan threw an incredible bowl that beat the line, but it was called. His second attempt was 100m short of the original tip and Hubbard beat it. Callanan’s last beat the line as Hubbard was too tight with his reply and missed by 10 metres.
Conor O’Neill beat Michael Rafferty and Mark Kiernan in the Northern Builders final on the Cathedral Road. Kiernan opened with a big bowl, but barely featured for the rest of the score. O’Neill raised a bowl at McGrath’s. From Starr’s pump to Bellaghy lane Rafferty contested the bowl of odds lead. O’Neill missed the line from there. Rafferty got a brilliant last shot to the wall past the limekilns; O’Neill did well to beat it.
Pat Callanan beat Ted Hegarty in the veteran championship at Sam’s cross, Jerry Murphy beat Christy Butler in the last shot at Béal na mBláth, Cathal Toal got the better of Conor McGuigan at the Cathedral Road and Gerard Rafferty beat Kevin Daly in the Duffy Cup final.