Arthur McDonagh bowled magnificently at Baile Bhuirne on Sunday to win his first Munster senior championship title at the expense of James O’Donovan.
He bowled with speed, confidence and accuracy and was dominant from the off. He had the mien of a serial champion rather than a rookie winner. From start to finish he was totally focused.
After O’Donovan played his opener slightly right, McDonagh immediately sought a path to destiny with a perfectly played bowl that gave him an instant edge.
That win puts him into both the All-Ireland senior final next month, over the same course, and next weekend’s King of the Roads at Ballincurrig. In the All-Ireland final he plays Thomas Mackle, who won the Ulster final on Sunday at Knappagh.
McDonagh won the opening tip by 50m, over a rough chip. O’Donovan’s second past de Roiste’s was better, but McDonagh beat it by 80m. O’Donovan’s third to ‘Falla Seánaí’ was a serious bowl and clipped the lead to 20m. He conceded ground again with his next. McDonagh punished him with a massive bowl to Ó Scanaill’s. That throw gave him almost a bowl of odds and set him firmly on the road to victory.
McDonagh followed with a massive bowl, which O’Donovan beat. His next to ‘the island’ was not as good, but O’Donovan made no significant gains. McDonagh raised a bowl of odds for the first time with a big seventh towards Hamilton’s. O’Donovan’s challenge took a serious hit, when he played his next bowl to the right and was now almost two behind. McDonagh took the lead well over two bowls with a super eighth to O’Herlihy’s gate.
McDonagh seemed to drop his intensity a few notches from there to the piggery, giving O’Donovan an opening to gain some traction. O’Donovan lofted perfectly from O’Herlihy’s and his bowl wound into the hollow bringing the lead well under two bowls. McDonagh didn’t get a super bowl past the novice line. O’Donovan now had a chance to put down a marker. His bowl looked well played but turned in left only 50m fore.
McDonagh found his mojo with a brilliant 11th bowl past the piggery. O’Donovan beat that well to keep the lead under two bowls, but there was a sense the sands had already slipped through his fingers. McDonagh played two great bowls in succession down to Tír na Meala cross, but O’Donovan beat both to keep the lead firmly under two bowls.
McDonagh lofted his next tight right and it hopped right, but it came back off the hard edge and rolled to light. O’Donovan responded with a massive loft, but he was too close to the right and when his bowl landed it turned in right, five metres hind, to leave two clear bowls between them. O’Donovan knocked the second bowl again with a great shot past Ó Riada’s.
Any hope of a late-late rally were dashed when McDonagh shaved the right with a searing bowl that ran all the ways to the sheds. That took him within sight of the line and put the contest firmly to bed.
Three big opening shots were instrumental to Thomas Mackle’s win over Cathal Toal in the Ulster final at Knappagh.
Toal was in trouble from the off, he played his first bowl to the left and got a very short shot.
Mackle punished him with a big bowl to take a 150m advantage. Toal only beat that tip by 20m with his second. Mackle followed with a big second shot across the straight. Toal missed that in two to fall two bowls of odds behind.
Mackle hammered home his advantage with a big third throw to the planting corner. Toal took six to open the bend, leaving him three bowls adrift.
He dug deep into his reserves of resilience to make light at Farley in three more against four for Mackle. This cut the lead to two bowls, but still left him with an almost impossible chasm to bridge.
Most of Toal’s gains evaporated when he played his bowl from Farley’s across to the right.
Mackle pushed on to make the plum trees in two more. That brought his lead back up to three bowls and Toal conceded.
If McDonagh and Mackle are to meet in King of the Roads it will be in the final as they are drawn apart in the semi-finals.
Mackle is in the first semi-final against David Murphy and Dutch champion Jochem Wennink. McDonagh plays reigning king, Gary Daly, and German champion Ralf Look.