David Murphy’s dream of winning four successive European gold road-bowling medals is still alive as he is named on the Irish team to contest next May’s European Championships in Garding, Germany.
His brother Aidan, who finished second to him in Holland in 2016 and won the Dutch Moors gold in Italy in 2012, is also in the squad. James O’Donovan, silver medallist in the Dutch Moors in 2016, adds considerable depth to the team.
Tom O’Donovan, who won two youth bronze medals in 2016 is an exciting addition. He brings speed, agility, class and youth; all of which are prized attributes at this level. King of the Roads, Gary Daly, and Martin Coppinger give this Irish team two powerful potential medal winners in both the Dutch Moors and Road arenas.
Ulster champion Cathal Toal is also a potential gold medallist. If he gets in the zone on the road, he could really shake things up for Ireland. There’s a nice balance in the rest of the panel with any of Brian Wilmot, Donnacha O’Brien, Eamon Bowen, Michael Bohane, Tim Young, or Paul O’Reilly delivering a career defining performance.
Two questions will be asked this week as fans survey the lists. Firstly, are there enough players to compete in three events on successive days? Significant additional resources would be needed to bring the panel up to the level of Ireland’s main rivals.
Are there are any obvious omissions is the second question. What about Thomas Mackle and Killian Kingston?
Mackle is excluded by an arcane rule that allows only two Ulster representatives, who must be the most recent Ulster senior finalists. Mackle was beaten in the semi-final. However, it is an academic question in this case as Mackle has taken time out of the game. Kingston, being based in Dublin, didn’t take part in the trials.
The senior women’s panel will elicit more conjecture. The elephant in the room here is the absence of Kelly Mallon. She is, without question, Europe’s top woman road bowler. Having sensationally lost to Dervla Toal-Mallon in the Ulster semi-final, she falls foul of the Ulster rule.
That one glitch carries a heavy price. This is the woman who beat current European champion Silke Tulk in the Queen of the Roads final a few months ago.
Apart from this, Ireland has a strong panel. It includes Carmel Carey, current All-Ireland champion and gold medallist in 2012. Clare O’Sullivan, who won senior silver, and Maria Nagle who won the under-18 gold in 2016 bring essential European experience.
Chloë O’Halloran, Hannah Cronin, Helen Whyte, Dervla Toal-Mallon, and Siobhan Mackle are all capable of getting in the medals too. Meghan Collins, who just missed the cut, is a definite loss.
All-Ireland U18 champion Wayne Parkes is not part of the youth squad. Had he been an Ulster player he would be an automatic selection. An objective analysis of 2019 would suggest that Parkes is Ireland’s best under-18 player. Ireland still carries plenty of talent. Current All-Ireland under-16 champion Darragh Dempsey can compete at European level.
Billy Connolly, James O’Sullivan, Michael Cronin, and Eugene McVeigh have plenty to offer too. Patrick Flood would have been a massive addition, but he didn’t put himself in the frame.
All-Ireland under-18 champion Hannah Sexton and her sister Margaret, who contested the All-Ireland under-16 final, bring a lot of class to the Irish under-18 team. They are joined by Shannon Maguire who won the under-16 All-Ireland and Rachel Kingston.
Tom O’Donovan was flaunting his status as an Irish senior international in a compelling win over Wayne Parkes at Lyre, while Noel O’Donovan led all the way against Cian Shorten in a tight contest at Ballinacurra, and Shane Shannon led John Cahalane all the way too at Ballydehob.
He raised a bowl in three to sight and had two at the cottage. Adrian Buttimer dominated from the start in his comfortable bowl of odds win over Denis O’Sullivan in the Mickie Hourihane Cup at Bauravilla.
Thomas Boyle had one single fore bowl against Liam Walsh at Whitechurch. Walsh led by over a bowl into the final quarter, but dramatically missed Boyle’s last throw.