Thomas Mackle bids to hold elusive suite of titles

Thomas Mackle is bidding to become the only Ulster player to retain the Hurley’s of Midleton King of the Roads next weekend at Ballincurrig.
Thomas Mackle bids to hold elusive suite of titles

He won his first title last year in a scintillating display against David Murphy. This time he has an opportunity to hold an elusive suite of titles Ulster, All-Ireland, King of the Roads and Joe McVeigh Cup in the same season.

In the semi-final he would have to repeat his win over European champion David Murphy, whom he also beat in this year’s Joe McVeigh Cup.

In May Murphy created history by becoming the only player to ever win three European road gold medals in succession.

But within two weeks he was out of the Munster championship. Niggling injury and lack of opportunities didn’t help, but he came through via the Mick Barry Cup.

In his qualifying score against Edmond Sexton he played the three longest bowls on record at Ballincurrig, but the mixed that with a lot of below par shots.

Mark Muntel in the third man in this semi-final. He played at Ballincurrig last year in the Youth Triple Crown and did well in the European championships.

The second semi-final looks set to be a cracker here Munster champion Killian Kingston takes on Ulster’s Cathal Toal and German champion Ralf Look.

Kingston showed maturity in winning this year’s Munster final against Edmond Sexton.

That was a real battle of nerves and he was still standing at the end. He was flat against Thomas Mackle in the All-Ireland and should be a lot fresher on Saturday.

Toal is a dynamo who was impressive in his run through the Mick Barry Cup. He beat Kingston the All-Ireland intermediate final in 2013 at Whitechurch and later in Ballincurrig. Kingston has moved on since then, but they are still closely matched.

Ralf Look pushed David Murphy to a last shot in last year’s semi-final. He finished ahead of every Irish player, but David and Aidan Murphy, in the European championships. It is inevitable that there will be a continental winner of King of the Roads and Look has the credentials to be such a champion.

Kelly Mallon is favourite to win her fifth Global Catering Queen of the Roads. She plays in the second semi-final against Germany’s Ann-Kristin Peters and Carlijn Hammink from the Netherlands, who won last Sunday Top 10 qualifier. Mallon is a six times All-Ireland senior champion and one of the keenest competitors in the sport.

Hammink’s win on Sunday adds an element of surprise to this semi-final.

She was part of the very successful Dutch team at the European championships in May, she finished fourth on 1,258m. She was also fourth in the Skibbereen international in 2014.

Peters is top player too, but she’s at a disadvantage having never competed on the course.

The opening semi-final sees dual European Champion Silke Tulk bidding to get back on the podium for a fourth title.

She has been a huge presence at Queen of the Roads, having contested five finals and been part of some of the greatest duels in its history. She has two Irish opponents, Munster champion Geraldine Daly and Ciara Buckley.

Daly will be seeking redemption for an All-Ireland title that slipped through her fingers against Kelly Mallon in August. In that final she showed the fire power to compete at the very highest level. She contested the final in 2008 and her 2016 championship form would indicate that this could be her year.

For Ciara Buckley this is bonus territory. She comes through as Gretta Cormican Cup winner, but arrives under the radar. She has a nothing to lose and everything to gain. Victory would be a huge achievement.

In the Jim O’Driscoll Cup Friday’s Cork champion will be hot favourite against Colm Rafferty on Sunday. Picking the winner on Friday is not easy. Gavin Twohig was brilliant in winning the All-Ireland intermediate title, but his form is not as sharp lately. Paul Buckley has the speed to do it. PJ Cooney has the record of having done it.

In Sunday’s Proto-Mark Technologies Youth International Triple Crown Ireland has a very strong team in Darragh Kiely and Maria Nagle, they are likely to be pressed by Dutch pair Jesse Wennink and Lisa Jonkers. To date Germany has not shone in this event so Fabian Schiffmann and Chantel Bohlen will be hoping to break that trend.

The Charlie McCarthy Cup with Peter Nagle and Dean Sexton against Mark Toal and Pádraig Nugent is a really hard one to call. Likewise, the East Cork Oil Trophy with Adrian Callanan and Stephen Sewell on one side and Mark Kiernan and Ryan Fay is finely balanced. Meghan Collins will be favourite for the John Shorten Prize, but Dutch player Marleen Hoffmann had a good run on Sunday and Germany’s Feenja Bohlken was over the road too last year.

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