These are the Young Turks of Irish bowling, both in their early 20s and oozing with talent and ambition. For two young players they have a long rivalry, starting with Kingston’s win in the All- Ireland u12 final on his home road, Ballincurrig, in 2003. In 2009 Mackle turned the tables in the u18 final at Tassagh.
Ulster champion, Mackle, is contesting his second senior final having lost to David Murphy at Port Mór – Blackwatertown last year. Murphy won that well. Mackle has twice reversed that result, most impressively in last year’s King of the Roads final, where he was absolutely brilliant. He followed up by beating Murphy again in the Joe McVeigh Cup final in Keady at Easter.
Mackle was All-Ireland intermediate champion in 2012 and has long been hailed as the heir apparent to his uncle Michael Toal who holds a record 10 senior crowns. Not easy shoes to fill and expectation is a heavy burden.
However, 2015 saw a significant tide change in his career. He became more consistent and mature in his performances and this has continued into 2016.
Kingston too has been burdened to some extent by expectation. Ever since winning the 2003 u12 title he has been a significant player. He contested three successive Munster u18 finals and won a European gold medal. At 18 he became the youngest ever All-Ireland Junior A winner and contested the 2013 All-Ireland intermediate final.
Like Mackle his early experiences at senior level were mixed as would be expected of an emerging player. In 2015 he exited the senior championship to Aidan Murphy at Pouladuff in a score he should have won. Late in the year he turned a new leaf with a series of good results, continuing into 2016, winning the Mother Hegarty Cup, before taking the Munster final.
Mackle will be strong favourite. He has been at or near the top for a longer period than Kingston. He also has three big wins in the past eight months, two against David Murphy and a comprehensive victory over Cathal Toal in the Ulster final.
Kingston has an impressive portfolio too. He passed the supreme psychological test set by Edmond Sexton in the Munster final. Both are bowling consistently and confidently which could make this a classic and a lot closer than most pundits expect.
Ulster champion Mark Kiernan will have huge Armagh support against David Shannon in the Junior B final tomorrow. He scorched to the All-Ireland Junior C title at Drogheda in 2012. He blitzed all opposition that weekend to win an historic 30th All-Ireland for the Madden club. He is strong and straight and perfectly suited to Lyre.
Shannon has served a longer than expected apprenticeship. In 2008 he was beaten by just six metres in a dramatic Munster u18 semi-final by Stephen Desmond who won the All-Ireland. Eight years on he has developed into a player with the power to play at a much higher level. Lyre is more of a test of consistency than speed, which may restrain him a little.
Armagh’s Siobhán Mackle will be favourite in the Intermediate women’s final tomorrow morning. She is the very highly rated sister of Thomas Mackle. She plays Bernadette Murphy, a sister of David and Aidan Murphy. Murphy has shown strong form in Munster, including a good win over this course.
Jimmy Collins and Joe Shortt open Sunday’s programme with the Veteran (over-50) final. It is Shortt’s fourth All-Ireland appearance. He won the Novice II All-Ireland in 2010 at Clashmore, but lost the veteran final to Chris O’Donovan in 2013 and the Junior B final to Derry Kenny in 1992.
It is Collins’ first All- Ireland, but he has an impressive list of conquests in the Munster campaign. If he holds that form, then this could be a real battle.
Conor Creedon and Darragh Dempsey are both bidding for a second All-Ireland.
Creedon hopes to add the All-Ireland u16 title to the u14 he won in 2014 while Dempsey could become only the third player to retain the u12 title.
Hannah Sexton looks a strong prospect to win the Girls U16 for Munster.