Just a week after his surprise exit from the Munster U18 championship, Kingston was focused and determined for this vital score.
Kiely opened with a near record bowl, which gave him the first lead. He won the second exchange too to the top of the hill. Kingston’s third was not as good as his first two, but Kiely did not take advantage.
Kingston’s next was not the best either, but again Kiely failed to exploit the situation. He regretted this leniency when Kingston delivered a brilliant bowl along the flat to take a good lead. Kiely missed Boula lane with his following bowl and Kingston hit him with a brilliant bowl past the lane and well up the hill to go almost a bowl in front. He gave Kiely a last opening when he missed light at the top of the straight. Kiely misplayed his reply to the left and missed the tip to fall a bowl behind. Kingston got a great bowl towards the farmhouse to extend his lead well over a bowl. He increased his odds in the shots to the Devil’s bend and finished with a great bowl past the line to push his lead well over a bowl.
He now faces Brian Wilmot in next Saturday’s Munster Junior A final at Newcestown. This is a major challenge as the Junior A is in many ways the most competitive of all championships. In Wilmot he also faces a player who gave an exceptional performance against Brendan O’Neill in the semi-final at Caheragh.
Wilmot is without question a bowler of the highest order. Having dismissed players like O’Neill, Terry Mallon, Finbarr Lynch and John Young on his way to the final he will not lack confidence. He is also familiar with the Newcestown venue, which will count for a lot. He has age and experience on his side too, but if he lets his guard down, Kingston is the type of player that can deliver a knockout bowl.
Kingston is still just a teenager, a student at Presentation College, who will not sit his Leaving Cert till next year. He is a sort of Joe Canning of bowling. He has phenomenal physical strength; he has all the skills and can deliver a bowl with the speed and accuracy of a senior bowler. It is unrealistic to expect him to give a flawless display every time he comes on the road, but like Canning he can turn a score on its head with a few flashes of genius. In seeking form it would be foolish to look back at the Munster U18 final. This is a different venue and a different occasion. The weight of expectation will be much lighter on Kingston’s shoulders this time. Wilmot showed at Caheragh just what he can do, but if Kingston hits his best on Saturday he will more than match that standard of bowling.
Seamus Sexton and Paddy O’Donoghue face each other in Sunday’s Munster Intermediate final at Ballinacurra, Upton.
Sexton is now reaching his prime. He won the U18 All-Ireland in 2003, but did not climb the ranks as quickly as was first expected. However that apprenticeship should stand to him in Sunday’s final. His form in his semi-final win over David Hubbard suggests that he is peaking at the perfect time.
A win here will not just put him into an All-Ireland final, but will give him a chance to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, also Seamus. He won the Junior A title in 1971 and quickly became a top senior, winning three Munster titles and an All-Ireland. His brother Edmund coincidently won the Munster senior final in 2003 and is still a leading senior. All of that will be a mere pipedream unless he can handle Paddy O’Donoghue, a task that should not be underestimated. O’Donoghue is a bowler with a deep reservoir of talent and determination. He finished strongly in both his semi-final win over Patrick O’Driscoll and in the quarter-final against Anthony Gould. If he is in contention in the closing stages expect him to exert every muscle. In a tight road and a tight finish he is the kind of player to deliver. He also has the memory of his 2004 Intermediate final defeat to Gavin Twohig at Ballyvolane to spur him on.
The winner of Sunday’s final will face either Martin Toal or Conor McGuigan. Toal who lost last year’s All-Ireland final to Willie O’Donovan at Sally’s Cross beat Cathal Toal at Kanppagh to keep a perfect record in the round-robin stages.
Cathal Toal was a bowl clear at Grimley’s. He hit poor form to the Condy corner where he was a bowl behind. Martin Toal finished strongly from there to win by a bowl.
Last weekend’s All-Ireland series at Sally’s Cross were the model of efficiency and good organisation. There were several carparks, excellent catering facilities, well-marshalled road checkpoints and diversions. And a very nice feature was the name signs at each of the key points on the road.