David Murphy is back on top of the bowling world after winning his second All-Ireland senior title, for just under €50,000, with almost two shots to spare on Ulster’s Thomas Mackle at Port Mór-Blackwatertown on Sunday.
In 2008, he defeated the great Michael Toal in Skibbereen and the road ahead looked to be paved in gold. His next All-Ireland appearance was in 2011 at Tassagh. By then his reputation had soared and Conor McGuigan was given virtually no hope, but Murphy didn’t perform on the day and McGuigan did everything to perfection.
The four years since the August weekend in 2011 must have seemed an age for Murphy. Before that shock defeat he looked destined to totally dominate senior bowling in Ireland. What was interpreted then as a blip turned into a four year famine.
No Munster championship, no All-Ireland championship, no King of the Roads. The only moment of true glory was winning the European gold medal in Pesaro in May 2012, an occasion made doubly sweet as his brother, Aidan, won the Dutch Moors gold medal.
A dip in form, a lack of genuine competition and an injury earlier this year were all part of a narrative that had seen the most gifted bowler of his generation out in the cold.
Two moments in the 2015 season turned that tide definitively. Both coincidently a 12th shot. On Sunday it was a cush with his bowl to Bagenall’s bend that gave him the edge on Thomas Mackle. Seven days earlier it was a surgical strike to Glasheen Cross that broke Gary Daly’s resistance in the Munster final at Macroom.
Seemingly tiny things matter in major sporting battles. We often ascribe luck to what is essentially the difference between good and great. Having the confidence, the sangfroid and the skill not only to go for the audacious but to pull it off when the need is greatest and the pressure most intense is the stuff of champions. Murphy did that on those two occasions and the door of victory swung open.
His winning margin may look flattering, but the real margin was in the instant of genius. Mackle will be devastated this week. In the months ahead though he will contextualise Sunday’s lessons and craft his own luck in similar circumstances down the line.
With five wins from last weekend and four from the series in Lyre last month, Munster comes out with nine wins to Ulster’s four. Very few years have been so successful and contrast with the virtual whitewash at the end of the August series in 2011.
Cian Boyle’s win over Darren Donnelly in the Junior B final was perhaps the second most important for Munster. He stopped a seven-in-a-row bid by Ulster and did it with a degree of class that bodes well for his future. He quickly put a poor opening shot behind him and raised a bowl of odds. Donnelly cut into that lead and was back in the frame for the last shot. He missed the line though and Boyle clinched it with a perfect last shot.
For Ulster the silver lining has to be Odhran Rafferty’s polished U16 final win over a highly rated Tom O’Donovan. Rafferty, a first-cousin of Thomas Mackle and a nephew of Michael Toal, had been on the receiving end in his two previous All-Ireland finals. Those black clouds were banished by total positivity in this final.
He opened with a massive bowl and although O’Donovan came close, there was going to be no succour from Rafferty. His massive fifth to the end of the straight past the stables put him a bowl clear. He raised two more in the next four to the orchard bend. To O’Donovan’s credit he battled on to save the third bowl.
Aileen Murphy beat hot favourite Aoife Trainor in the intermediate women’s final, despite taking a heavy fall delivering her second shot. Trainor opened a big lead after six. Murphy turned the score with three brilliant throws in succession to raise a bowl after 11 to McCusker’s. She closed it out in another three over the line.
Paul Grimley is creating his own piece of bowling history. On Sunday morning he added the Veteran (over-50) title to his two junior A crowns, when he beat Dan O’Halloran by a bowl of odds. He was Ulster’s first winner of the weekend. His opening came when O’Halloran’s ninth blew left and missed McCusker’s. He raised a bowl with his 12th and held it to the line.
Maria Nagle became the first bowler to win successive girls U16 titles when she easily beat Leah Grimley. Her huge opening shot gave her an 80m lead and she was a bowl in front after two more. She was three bowls clear at the long lane.
Darragh Dempsey showed good battling qualities when beating Ulster’s Jake Cullen by a bowl in the boy’s U12 final. It was all to play for till he got a great bowl to the orchard bend and then put the issue beyond doubt with a strong finish.
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