James O’Donovan advanced to the 2020 Munster Senior championship semi-final after a comprehensive line-to-line victory over David Murphy at Derrinasafa on Sunday.
He opened the contest with a big bowl into the middle of the wall. Murphy missed that by 25m and was wide with his second throw. O’Donovan shaved the right with his second one and made full sight on the straight. Murphy only beat this by 100m with his third shot towards the rock.
O’Donovan followed with a scintillating bowl up the middle to the start of the bridge. Although Murphy replied with a well-played bowl he beat this by just 10m, leaving almost a bowl between them. At this point, O’Donovan threatened to take complete control. He wasn’t able to maintain that dominance over the next series of throws though. He was marginally left of the sop with his next, but it still beat ‘Foxy’s Lane’. Murphy beat that by 100m to cut the lead.
O’Donovan failed to open Ross’ with his next. That gave Murphy a chance to level, but he only made the point of the bend. O’Donovan lofted his next over cranky surface and went well past the bend. Murphy only beat that by 25m, conceding almost a bowl again. O’Donovan missed a chance to consolidate his lead when he missed Cotter’s cross. Murphy hit back with a big bowl to the high hedge and O’Donovan beat that by just 25m.
Both were now in a place to reach the Darkwood turn and take vital odds for the second half. Surprisingly they both missed and after the following exchange, Murphy had the lead down to just five metres, the narrowest lead of the day. It was perfectly set up for a grandstand finish.
Murphy’s next bowl didn’t have real conviction and only made the start of the wall. O’Donovan replied with a fast bowl that went to Dwyer’s and pushed his lead out to 150m. Murphy followed with a good bowl to Walsh’s lane. O’Donovan cut his reply smartly up the left and beat it by the same 150m. Murphy beat that in turn by just 25m, so in just two throws O’Donovan was almost a bowl clear again.
He turned the screws with a sensational bowl from there to O’Neill’s cross. Murphy’s reply looked good, but it fell off the centre 50m hind. Murphy now needed something exceptional. He didn’t get a big one, but O’Donovan beat it by just 25m. Murphy’s next bowl to the junior line was good. But when O’Donovan replied with another monster shot to the well the contest was effectively over.
They played another shot each towards the line, which was enough to copper-fasten his place in next Sunday’s semi-final against Aidan Murphy at Templemartin. Séamus Sexton and Arthur McDonagh will face each other at Castletownkenneigh on Saturday in the other semi-final. Aidan Murphy is the only player left in the race that has previously won the title.
Sunday’s win may be a turn in the road for O’Donovan who will be contesting his third successive Munster senior semi-final. In 2018 he lost in a dramatic last shot to David Murphy at Béal na Bláth; he certainly exorcised that ghost last Sunday. In 2019 he lost to Martin Coppinger at Bauravilla. On Sunday, despite a few errors, he looked both sharp and fast and should be a handful for All-Ireland champion Aidan Murphy.
It will be Murphy’s first outing of the year, which is not the ideal way to go into a Munster semi-final. In normal times he would have several serious contests under his belt and a clearer sense of his own form. When he won the championship in 2019 he was highly impressive in his All-Ireland win over Cathal Toal at Tullysaran and showed battling qualities in turning over Martin Coppinger in the Munster final at Grange.
Arthur McDonagh has plenty of experience of the business end of the championship too ahead of his clash with Séamus Sexton. He reached both the 2017 and 2018 Munster finals, and had chances in both before bowing out to eventual All-Ireland winners Martin Coppinger and David Murphy.
Séamus Sexton comes into that semi-final under the radar somewhat, but with the advantage of a recent championship win. He beat Michael Bohane in Clondrohid, while giving himself plenty of study notes ahead of Saturday. He has massive ability as he proved when he went through the Munster Intermediate championship like a tsunami in 2014.