Mackle and Mallon make it a golden Ulster age

Future Ulster bowling fans will look back on this as the golden age. A decade ago not even the most optimistic supporter would have predicted Ulster winning both King and Queen of the Roads in three successive seasons.

Mackle and Mallon make it a golden Ulster age

Thomas Mackle is now one title ahead of his uncle, the great Michael Toal. He ranks beside Pat Butler and David Murphy as a three-in-a-row winner. At Ballincurrig last weekend he had a royal tussle with Martin Coppinger in the semi and had to beat the in-form Gary Daly in the final.

Kelly Mallon is an exceptional athlete. Her achievements deserve proper recognition. She now has six Queen of the Roads. She is the only person to ever win three in a row and last weekend both her wins were against international opposition.

In Sunday’s final she looked set for an easy win after three, only to find herself suddenly in arguably the most enthralling final of all. She really had to show unbelievable strength of character to fend off Germany’s Anke Klöpper, who hit her with relentless brilliance for two-thirds of the score. This just 48 hours after seeing off Dutch rivals Silke Tulk and Lindsay Leussink.

In Saturday’s King of the Roads semi-final, Mackle beat Martin Coppinger from hind bowl in the last shot.

Dutch champion Jos-Bert Aalbers never featured as Mackle and Coppinger slogged it out in a three-hour marathon. Coppinger got the better of three brilliant opening shots towards Geary’s. Mackle won his first lead with a searing fourth to the creamery. Coppinger regained the lead instantly with a massive fifth to the pony’s gate and they were dead level after six past the no-play line.

Mackle won the next two, Coppinger regained the lead with a good ninth up the long straight. Mackle got a super one to Leahy’s to edge five metres fore. He then got an amazing shot to the big corner to go almost a bowl in front. He was at Din Tough’s in 13, but Coppinger kept him under pressure by making the sycamores in 14.

They both made sight in two more with Coppinger five metres fore. Mackle went to the middle of the green with his last. Coppinger played his a little too far left and it missed the tip by 10m.

Gary Daly was brilliant in his semi-final win over Ralf Look and Bryan O’Reilly. This turned into a duel between Daly and German champion Look, who reached last year’s final. O’Reilly hit the kerb at the school with his first although he recovered with a super second, he never fully settled. Daly lost the lead to an extraordinary third from Look towards Geary’s. He then played three great shots past the no-play line, his super fifth past the creamery being exceptional, to get a big lead on Look. They were both short of O’Riordan’s in another. Look played an absolute gem onto the long straight to keep the lead under a bowl.

Daly was a shade tight with his loft to Leahy’s and his lead was back to just three metres. His next was an astonishing bowl that went well around the big corner. He followed with two more excellent bowls to sight at Din Tough’s. Look did even better getting to the sycamores in two and clipping Daly’s lead to 40m. He couldn’t shake Look off in the next two to sight and had to beat a decent last shot.

Sunday morning’s Jim O’Driscoll Cup final produced some of the best bowling of the weekend. Michael Harrington made sight with his first only to see Colm Rafferty beat it. They took three more to the green. Rafferty beat the no-play line in another two, but Harrington kept in touch by reaching Heaphy’s in seven.

Rafferty got to Leahy’s in three more to raise a bowl. Harrington knocked the bowl and got back in contention with a great shot up the short straight. He followed with two poor shots though. missing sight at Din Tough’s. Rafferty was onto the sycamore in two to push his lead well over a bowl. He scored the line in 16.

Jari Sturm gave an indication of the challenge Irish bowlers face at international level in the coming years. He led Germany’s FKV pairing to victory in the Proto-Mark Technologies Youth International Triple Crown. His partner Julia Heiken was consistency personified too. Dutch pair Mirco Breuker and Suzan Zieverink edged out Ireland’s Conor Creedon and Hannah Cronin for second place.

Terry Mallon and Kevin McQuade beat James Cooney and Ger Connolly in the last shot of an exciting Charlie McCarthy Cup final. The Cork pair led by 100m after Cooney’s brilliant fourth. They lost the lead when missing the big corner in six. Armagh raised a bowl after. Connolly’s great 12th and 14th shots gave Cork the lead facing the line, but McQuade stole the show with a big last one.

A big shot to O’Riordan’s gave Pádraig Nugent and Colm Doran a vital edge on Ciarán Nyhan and Bert Randalls in the East Cork Oil trophy. Earlier, Randalls unluckily missed the big corner. Connolly gave them a late scare with a huge second last.

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