It is the feature score of the first All-Ireland series of 2015, in which six finals will be played over two days, starting on Saturday with the Boys U18, followed by the Boys U14 and the Men’s Junior A finals. The women’s senior final opens Sunday’s programme, which is followed by the Girls U18. The men’s intermediate final closes the series.
The intermediate final could be an outstanding contest as both Bohane and O’Reilly are top class bowlers.
Bohane’s form has been on the rise in the closing stages of the Munster championship. If he stays on that trajectory, it is very hard to oppose him.
O’Reilly looked set to sweep through Ulster, but hit a blip in form before bouncing back to take the title. The challenge for him is to bring his A game. He gave a five-star performance in his 2011 All-Ireland Junior A win over Arthur McDonagh at Derrinasafa. Though the following year PJ Cooney defeated him in the Jim O’Driscoll Cup final. Bohane has the natural bowling to punish him, so he will need to be at his best.
The Junior A final between Paul Buckley and Malachy Lappin could be a classic too. Buckley is a newcomer at this level, but he has accumulated invaluable experience in a pressurised environment through the Munster campaign. At this point he has been on a war footing for over three months. He was presented with a sterner test in each outing down to his Munster final win over Billy McAuliffe. That will have to stand to him on Saturday.
Ulster champion Malachy Lappin is a seasoned campaigner who knows what’s required to win an All-Ireland title. Just two years ago, he defeated hot favourite Kieran Murphy in the All-Ireland Junior B final. He has plenty of bowling to compete at this level and is gifted with a will of steel. From the off he will test Buckley’s psychological mettle as much as his bowling.
Sunday morning’s Senior Women’s final is a renewal of a long rivalry. Both Kelly Mallon and Catriona O’Farrell-Kidney have won every honour in the game at both national and international level. In 2012, O’Farrell-Kidney beat Mallon in the All-Ireland final in Armagh, only to see Mallon defeat her in the Queen of the Roads semi-final a few months later.
This could be a really tight battle, especially if they are both in top form. Mallon is reigning champion, but she has not had the same level of competition recently as her opponent as she is now totally dominant in Ulster. But when she’s at her best she has no rival in terms of being able to land the killer blow at a critical time in a score.
O’Farrell-Kidney is a very different type of player. She is supremely talented and at her best has no equal in bowling ability. She has the speed and class to win any competition, but she will need to remain totally focused here. If she can repeat her Munster final form against Carmel Ryan it’s hard to see her beaten, but against Mallon there is no comfort zone.
There’s a novel aspect to the Boys u18 final between Ryan Gamble and Alex O’Donovan. Gamble eliminated last year’s champion, David Devlin, in the Ulster final. That win is a major plus, especially as Devlin was the underage star of 2014, winning both the U16 and U18 All-Irelands. On Saturday though he steps up to his first national final on an unfamiliar road.
O’Donovan will be very much at home at Lyre, but that presents its own challenges. In the Munster final at Derrinasafa he also beat a former All-Ireland champion in Shane Shannon. He has shown enough form to be a match for any player and the fact that Devlin is out of the running has to be a massive advantage to him.
James Hickey goes into the Boys U14 final having beaten Darragh Kiely who won the 2013 U12 All-Ireland final. That line of form will boost his confidence, but he has a very tough assignment in Ulster U14 champion Ruairi Hughes. Hughes is a strong, athletic player who delivers a very fast bowl and is considered a star in the making.
The Girls U18 final between Munster’s Veronica O’Mahony and Gemma McCann is difficult to predict as we have no head-to-heads on which to base a judgement.
O’Mahony showed a lot of class in her Munster final win over Emma Hickey and has the advantage of playing to a home audience.