High hopes for Munster in the All-Ireland final series

Martin Coppinger will lead a strong Munster team into next weekend’s All-Ireland final series in Madden.
High hopes for Munster in the All-Ireland final series

He is bidding for his fourth All-Ireland senior title against Ulster’s Bryan O’Reilly on Sunday. He was impressive in his Munster senior final win over Arthur McDonagh. Just when McDonagh threatened to take control he produced a massive score turning bowl. After that he looked imperious. He’s a big player and a big time player.

However, big players need big roads and Madden is not the perfect place for Coppinger to display.

He will need to be patient and measured as the road may not yield to his superior power. If his camp is drifting towards complacency they should recall the famous 2011 senior final when Conor McGuigan beat an impossibly hot favourite in David Murphy.

Any Munster fans underestimating O’Reilly need reminding that he eliminated Coppinger from the Mick Barry Cup in 2014. A few weeks later he pushed James Buckley to the last shot in the semi-final of the King of the Roads, Buckley won the title the following day.

If hunger is a factor then O’Reilly will have more than most. Since graduating underage an Ulster title eluded him. In the Ulster final he solved that with a good win over his cousin Paul O’Reilly, who beat Thomas Mackle. He has the road in his favour too. If he comes with his A game then Coppinger will have to be at his best too.

With Michael Harrington having already won the Intermediate title, the town of Killarney has a chance of ending the weekend with three bowling All-Irelands.

Killarney chef, and former Ulster champion, Terry Mallon looks well placed to get past Kevin McQuaid on Saturday’s Junior B final. McQuaid had a lucky escape against Jarlath Devlin in the Ulster final, while Mallon looked too good for the grade in his Munster campaign.

Jim Coffey is a tidy player that should thrive at Madden to end the great run of Fergal McCreesh in the Veteran (over-50) final. McCreesh has a way of defying the odds though. He was brilliant when winning the 2015 Novice II All-Ireland, but this is a significant step up in class.

Ulster’s Ruairí Hughes is bidding to retain the All-Ireland u16 title against Jordan O’Sullivan. Hughes was an impressive winner over Conor Creedon at Lyre last year and also contested the U14 final in 2015. He was surprisingly beaten in this year’s Ulster U18 final by Patrick Mackle. Home advantage and experience are major pluses.

O’Sullivan looked good when beating Darragh Kiely in the Munster final at Macroom. Given that Kiely was All-Ireland U12 champion in 2013, that was a significant win. All-Irelands are even bigger challenges though.

Mairéad O’Driscoll’s upward curve should continue in the Women’s Intermediate final against Emma Jane O’Neill. Beating a player of Veronica O’Mahony’s class in the Munster final should be a major confidence booster. O’Neill beat a good player too in Orlaith Traynor in the Ulster final.

Hannah Sexton will hope to retain the Girls U16 title. She had to fend off a determined challenge from Anna Hurley in the Munster final, but when she saw an opening she moved up the gears very quickly. Her opponent Geraldine Kiernan has the decided advantage of having played over the course several times.

The series opens with the meeting of Cathal Maguire and Conor O’Donovan in the U12 final on Saturday morning. Predicting a winner in this age group is never easy, but O’Donovan showed a lot of class in his Munster final win over Seán-Paul McDonagh.

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