Martin Coppinger and David Murphy set for battle royal

European champion David Murphy and recent Phair Cup winner Martin Coppinger face each other today in the feature score of the RNLI annual fundraising day at Castletownbere.

Martin Coppinger and David Murphy set for battle royal

These two have been at or close to the top of Irish bowling this decade. Coppinger was sharp when he ended James O’Donovan’s fine run in the Noel Phair Cup at Shannonvale. He got one of the longest bowls on record that day and held on despite a great late challenge from O’Donovan.

Murphy created history in May when he became the first player to win three successive European road titles. After that heady start though his year only sputtered along.

Coppinger shared the 2016 doldrums with Murphy and has only begun to find his form in the last quarter.

They were on opposing sides recently in a double at Castletownkenneigh, with Murphy winning in partnership with his brother Aidan. That encounter is little use in divining a winner today.

Coppinger is a player with imposing power and one that can surf the wave of success. After the Phair Cup he is brimming with confidence and will be hard to beat. Murphy’s sails have less wind, but he is a master bowler hungry for a big win.

John Creedon will hope to repeat his 2015 win over Killian Kingston in the second feature. He has had a quiet 2016, missing the big events. He played Gay Daly at Grenagh and although he lost it will have sharpened him enormously. Kingston is Munster senior champion and a massively improved player since 2015. He’s had a sticky patch after defeats in the All-Ireland final and King of the Roads semi-final. Form can fluctuate, but class persists and if Kingston is tuned in he can end the year on a high.

Gavin Twohig won the annual St Stephen’s Day challenge at Grange, repeating his Munster final win over Paul Buckley. He opened with two sensational bowls to the stud farm that put him over a bowl in front. He made sight in three, and was up to de Barra’s in five to take his lead to two bowls of odds.

Buckley turned the tide with two great bowls down to the school cross against three from Twohig, which cut the lead to a bowl. Twohig lost most of his lead with two poor shots up to and away from O’Sullivan’s. Buckley continued to press and won the lead at Hodnett’s farm. He led from there into the hollow facing up the rise to Barry’s.

Twohig regained a narrow lead with a great bowl to the new house. Buckley played his next too tight on the right and only reached the start of Barry’s wall. Twohig hit back with a great bowl that made the pub door and sealed the contest with the line in sight.

Earlier Anthony Broderick bowled well to score two wins over Frank Kiely.

Denis Wilmot won a topsy-turvy semi-final against Dan O’Halloran and John Cahalane at Ballinacurra also on St Stephen’s Day.

O’Halloran opened with a great bowl to just short of the zebra-crossing, which gave him the first lead. Cahalane won the second with a big shot to the factory. He was still fore with his third towards the church. Wilmot was almost a bowl behind after his fourth to the church. Cahalane was five metres fore of O’Halloran after his fourth to Foley’s, with Wilmot still almost a bowl down.

O’Halloran made a mistake with his next. Cahalane replied with a great fifth to the nooks to raise a bowl on both his opponents. He then got two more good shots to the middle of the GAA field where he had edged almost two bowls clear. He followed with two poor shots to the end of the GAA complex. Both Wilmot and O’Halloran got big shots over the bridge to bring the lead back to a throw. After two more to sight the lead was under a bowl, with Wilmot slipping into second place after a great bowl. He followed with a super shot to the Junior C line to win his first lead.

Wilmot took the next two to Cronin’s new house, but wasn’t pulling clear.

O’Halloran grabbed the opening with a great bowl onto the finishing straight to regain the lead. From third place Cahalane got a good bowl, but missed the line.

Wilmot then beat it with a super bowl up the left. O’Halloran pushed his reply right and missed the line.

Jim Coffey won the first semi-final over Thomas Boyle and Denis Murphy. He won the opening tip. Murphy took the second to the zebra-crossing. He was still in front after four to Foley’s.

Coffey regained the lead with a big shot to the nooks. Murphy struggled to Innishannon cross, where he trailed by a bowl, with Coffey and Boyle contesting the lead.

Coffey had a good lead at the novice line, but Boyle had it whittled down to a metre for the last shot.

Boyle’s last bowl drifted right and Coffey beat it.

At Bottlehill Éamon Bowen Jnr and Liam Walsh beat Davey Fitzgerald and Maurice Connolly in the last shot.

A big throw from Bowen to the farm was critical to that win. Denis Connolly beat Michael Barry in the last shot.

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