If ever a score had everything, then this was it, capped by a bizarre finish.
Even with a record €96,000 at stake both players bowled with freedom and a consistent pitch of excellence.
Murphy looked to be heading for victory as they edged towards the finish. Even as the last bowl left his his hand he looked a winner, but it ricocheted wildly right and was blocked in the crowd just shy of Coppinger’s tip.
Coppinger opened with a huge bowl to the Coop. Murphy missed that well when his bowl hit a pillar. Murphy then produced two magnificent bowls. The first doubled cannoned off the wall and made the hospital the second arced around a long wind and cut the lead to five metres.
He won the next exchange to Cottage Heights by 40m and led at every subsequent tip, but the last.
Coppinger got a brilliant bowl up the rise, which Murphy beat by 40m. He followed with another brilliant one and again Murphy had its measure with a perfect shot to the end of the railing. Coppinger’s next was even better. It went to the top of the rise, cutting Murphy’s lead to 20m.
Coppinger reached the shop with his eighth. Murphy skimmed the left with a super reply, beating the tip by 60m and reaching the start of the coarse surface for the last quarter. That surface was uncompromising for both players, but Murphy seemed to do better as he held what looked winning odds after each of the next three throws.
Coppinger played an excellent second last towards Rodeen layby. Murphy hit back with another great bowl, but it missed the line by 20m.
Coppinger played his last tight on the right and it ran over the brow past the line. Murphy looked to have a very manageable shot to beat. He delivered well onto the middle of the road. The bowl immediately broke right and was accidently blocked, close to the right verge, just short of Coppinger’s tip.
Earlier, Killian Kingston finished confidently to beat John Creedon by a bowl.
They started on the rough surface. Despite this Creedon got a big opening shot to take the first tip by 20m. Kingston cut it to five metres with his second. His third skipped left over the jagged aggregate and Creedon missed it. They were close to the end of the rough in four, with Kingston leading by 40m. Creedon then got a super fifth to the shop. Kingston missed that by 40m. He followed with a great bowl, but Creedon beat it by the same 40m. He was still 30m fore after the next exchange to the tyre centre.
Kingston then got a big bowl to the Spar sign. Creedon’s reply was left and hit a pole. He compensated with a good bowl to the top of the hill. Kingston hit back with a super bowl that ran the footpath to Cottage Heights.
Creedon got another good one into the hollow. Kingston replied with a beautifully measured bowl to sight. Creedon missed that by five metres to concede a bowl of odds. He then made sight at the last bend, but Kingston beat it to seal his win.
Thomas Mackle capped a fine 2016 with a last shot win over Edmond Sexton in the Willie Whelton Cup semi-final at Grange.
He was 40m fore after three to the stud farm. He kept a big lead to the top of the school hill in another three. Sexton missed sight at the school cross with his next. Mackle replied with a purlicue shot that pulled around to Hegarty’s wall and gave him a bowl of odds. He increased his lead in the next two to the big tree.
He had well over a bowl at Hodnett’s.
Sexton knocked the bowl with a huge 13th and kept it under a bowl with his next up the rise. Mackle then missed sight at Barry’s and Sexton got a good bowl towards the pub. Mackle reached the car park to hold an 80m lead for the last shot. Sexton’s last was not enough to trouble Mackle.
Mick Hurley advanced to the festive final at Ballinacurra when he beat Brendan O’Neill and David Hubbard while Wayne Callanan beat Billy McAuliffe in the last shot of a Flor Crowley Cup tie at the same venue.