At Grenagh on Sunday, Kelly Mallon joined Gretta Cormican on the top of the national roll of honour with seven All-Ireland senior titles.
This was another exceptional performance from a player who has made a career of pushing out the frontiers of excellence. Right from the off, she was totally focused; her bowls were fast and accurate.
Carmel Ryan challenged strongly, but with each successive throw, Mallon set the bar higher. Ryan did remarkably well to keep Mallon in check, she never left the champion get out of sight.
Given that Mallon is still well on the right side of 30, that there are very few players to match her for speed and total focus, she is very likely to accumulated even more national and international titles.
She came to prominence in 2005, when she contested three All-Ireland finals in one season. She won both the U18 and intermediate women’s finals, both against then world U18 champion Denise Murphy.
Both those wins had the hallmarks of the type of performance we have since many times since from Mallon. She stays ice cool regardless of where she sits vis-à-vis her opponent and invariably comes with a sudden surge that kills the contest.
In that 2005 U18 final at Doneraile, she produced a killer blow entering the final third, raised a bowl of odds and refused to give an inch.
She was in trouble with three shots to go in the intermediate final on the Cathedral Road, but suddenly jumped up a few gears to snatch it on the line. Twelve years later she performed a similar feat when beating what looked an impossible last shot from Dervla Toal-Mallon in the recent Ulster semi-final at Tullysaran.
Emma Fitzpatrick denied her a unique, single season, hat-trick of All-Ireland titles in a sensational finish to the 2005 U16 final. Fitzpatrick performed a Mallon type coup in that score, coming with three super shots to snatch it by five metres.
Everyone knew Mallon was a special talent, but the extent of her remarkable ability unfolded in every arena in the following years.
In terms of All-Ireland honours 2006 was her gap year. But what a year she had in 2007; she won the All-Ireland senior and U18 finals and Queen of the Roads.
In the U18 final at Skibbereen she had Emma Fitzpatrick on the back foot after a sensational opening bowl. In the senior final she started slowly, but then moved to another level to overwhelm Maria Noonan. She needed her legendary mental reserves to beat Noonan in Queen of the Roads.
In 2008, she was European champion after a brilliant battle with Catriona O’Farrell-Kidney and Dervla Toal at Bandon.
Toal defeated her in the Ulster finals of both 2008 and 2009. She was back in business in 2010, winning Ulster, All-Ireland, and Queen of the Roads titles. She beat Carmel Ryan in both the All-Ireland and Queen of the Roads.
That Queen of the Roads battle was a sensational contest in which Ryan really pushed her to her limits.
In 2011, she won all three again, beating Ryan by close to a bowl in the All-Ireland final at Derrinasafa. In the Queen of the Roads final she beat Silke Tulk in a contest that surpassed even the 2010 final.
The Dutch champion raised a bowl and looked set to go two clear. Mallon made an astonishing comeback to take her first lead with two to go. Tulk was back in front after the next and then Mallon played perhaps the longest last shot ever in a women’s final.
Just six years on from winning the U18 All-Ireland, she had beaten the three top women bowlers in Europe in significant finals. Catriona O’Farrell in the Europeans, Dervla Toal in Ulster and Carmel Ryan in All-Ireland and Queen of the Roads.
All three came back to beat her in 2012, Ryan won the Europeans. O’Farrell the All-Ireland and Tulk Queen of the Roads.
Ryan beat her again in the All-Ireland final of 2013 and Tulk beat her in the Queen of the Roads semi-final. Mallon won her fourth senior All-Ireland in 2014 beating Ryan at Port Mór, but Tulk beat her comprehensively in the Queen semi-final.
From 2015 she has been totally dominant. On Sunday she completed both an Ulster and All-Ireland three-in-a-row. In 2015 she beat O’Farrell in the All-Ireland, Tulk in the Queen semi-final and Ryan in the final.
Last year she beat Tulk in the last shot of super Queen of the Roads having escaped with a miraculous last shot against Geraldine Daly in the All-Ireland final.
Last Sunday she became the first woman to win three successive All-Ireland senior finals.
Her performance suggests she might create the same landmark later this season in Queen of the Roads. In 13 seasons she has reached the joint-leadership in the All-Ireland roll of honour and and is clear leader of Queen of the Roads with five titles.
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