Defending champion Aidan Murphy is well placed to win his third Hurley’s of Midleton King of the Roads crown at Ballincurrig on Sunday.
A lot of bowls will be thrown in the three-day festival before that verdict is reached.
It breaks off this morning with the first of the Global Catering Queen of the Roads semi-finals, featuring defending champion Carmel Ryan, with the second semi-final and the Cork final of the Jim O’Driscoll Cup the other first-day features.
Aidan Murphy takes the road tomorrow afternoon in the second of the King of the Roads semi-finals, facing Ulster champion Cathal Toal and Dutch champion Harold Dolleman. Murphy beat Toal earlier this year in the All-Ireland senior final and will fancy his chances of repeating that win. His championship win and a busy season, even if peppered with a few defeats, are very valuable assets facing the weekend.
Toal was a massive disappointment in the All-Ireland final, but that is more reflective of a bad day at the office than his true form. He was magnificent at Ballincurrig last year in the Jim O’Driscoll Cup and earlier in the year in the All-Ireland intermediate final. If he finds that kind of form next weekend, he is well capable of beating Murphy.
Dutch champion Harold Dolleman is the holder of four national titles, a European youth gold medal and has finished second twice in senior European competition. He has also represented the Netherlands in five successive European championships.
The opening King of the Roads semi-final between James Buckley, Bryan O’Reilly and Germany’s Matthias Rahmann should be a close affair. O’Reilly showed impressive form in his run through the Mick Barry Cup, taking the scalp of a former King, Martin Coppinger, last time out. If the Armagh man brings his A game, he could book a place in Sunday’s final. His case has strengthened following James Buckley’s fall last Sunday at Ardcahan.
Carmel Ryan will be the favourite in the first of the Global Catering Queen of the Roads semi-finals. She faces German champion Anke Klöpper and Claire O’Sullivan who qualified from the Gretta Cormican Cup. If Ryan is fully fit it is hard to see either opponent defeating her.
The second semi-final is a score for the ages. Kelly Mallon is All-Ireland champion and the holder of three crowns, Dutch champion Silke Tulk has two crowns and is contesting her sixth successive Queen of the Roads and Emma Fitzpatrick is the most improved senior woman in Ireland.
Today’s other big score is the Cork final of the Jim O’Driscoll Cup involving Seamus Sexton, John Shorten and PJ Cooney. Sexton is Munster intermediate champion on a mission to atone for a below par All-Ireland final, Shorten has been very impressive in the qualifiers and Cooney has snatched a few big wins in the last shot. The winner will play James Oliver in the overall final on Sunday.
The Dutch team of Jochem Wennink and Manon Zanderink defend the Maas Engineering Youth International Triple Crown, which they won so impressively last year. It is first time out for both Ireland’s David Devlin and Mairéad O’Driscoll and the German pair Michael Mülder and Maren Christoffer.
Tomorrow’s Charlie McCarthy Cup has Munster pair Thomas Boyle and Patrick Butler playing Ulster’s Eugene Kiernan and Ruairí O’Reilly. Boyle and Butler are very much at home on this road, which might tip it in their direction. In the later East Cork Oil Trophy Munster’s Bryan O’Halloran and Peter Burns look to be very closely matched with Ulster pair Shane O’Neill and Austin McKeown.
King & Queen of the Roads 2014 (Ballincurrig, Co. Cork)
Today: 10am Queen of the Roads semi-final: Anke Klöpper (Ger) v Carmel Ryan v Claire O’Sullivan. 1.30 pm Jim O’Driscoll Cup Cork Final: Seamus Sexton v John Shorten v PJ Cooney. 3 pm Global Catering Queen of the Roads semi-final: Silke Tulk (Neth) v Kelly Mallon v Emma Fitzpatrick
Tomorrow: 10am, King of the Roads semi-final: James Buckley v Bryan O’Reilly v Matthias Rahmann (Ger). 11.30am, Charlie McCarthy Cup (McCarthy Insurance Group): Thomas Boyle/Patrick Butler v Eugene Kiernan/Ruairí O’Reilly
1.30pm, King of the Roads Semi-final: Aidan Murphy v Cathal Toal v Harold Dolleman (Neth). 3pm, East Cork Oil Trophy: Bryan O’Halloran/Peter Burns v Shane O’Neill/Austin McKeown
Sunday:10am, Final Jim O’Driscoll Cup: James Oliver v Cork Final winner
11.30am, Youth International Triple Crown: David Devlin/Mairéad O’Driscoll (Irl) v Jochem Wennink/Manon Zanderink (Neth) v Michael Mülder/Maren Christoffer (Ger)
1.30pm, Final King of the Roads
3pm, Final Queen of the Roads
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