The seven new All-Ireland bowling champions won’t spend time reflecting on the few small things that might have gone even better, but the beaten finalists will rewind the tape to some critical moments that saw the tide retreat and not return.
With more measured reflection some on the losing side will see a lot of positives. Michael Bohane should see the glass as half full. He had a remarkable championship. Had he a second chance on a few shots in the middle of the score he might have taken other options. Both his and Thomas Mackle’s performance dipped in that middle section, but Bohane was certainly the master for the first third. Mackle recaptured the sparkle that made him special a few years ago in the final third. His brilliant 10th bowl past the mushroom houses seemed to lift a dark cloud. He was possessed after that, repelling Bohane when his bowling was a good as at any time in this special campaign.
Mackle’s singlemindedness was captured beautifully, when a van managed to get onto the course and became entangled in the crowd, right on the edge of Mackle’s approach run. On another day, things would have halted to get the vehicle off the track. This time Mackle was so intent on keeping momentum that the van was ordered to stop. He shot past it to deliver another massive drive. Bohane never surrendered, but when Mackle is in that place he is almost impossible to catch.
Denis O’Sullivan may ponder on how the Junior B final got away from him. It turned on one extraordinary shot, on the fickleness of chance and the wafer-thin margins that decide elite sport. Both he and Aaron Hughes were standing at the top of a brae looking down a narrow gallery framed by thousands of supporters. Some 250m away at the bottom of the brae was a small bridge and after it a chicane. O’Sullivan played his bowl perfectly, but it caught the start of the bridge, a few millimetres and it would have escaped. Hughes played his with the same speed and accuracy, it escaped the parapet and cannoned lightly off the kerb and went through the chicane. His first lead and O’Sullivan’s last.
Before that incredible score we knew that Hughes was an exceptional talent, after it we were even more certain. O’Sullivan though was playing in his first All-Ireland final, not only that but this was the first year he played in championship bowling. The sheer brilliance of his bowling, his ice cold composure, like that famous bowl down the brae, it needs application and luck, but he has all it takes to go right to the top.
Liam Murphy and Ross O’Brien didn’t leave much out on the road. O’Brien was like a seasoned champion in his barely credible seven shots to the finishing line in the under-12 final against Seán Lappin. He turned a middle-distance event into a sprint. Lappin would have been in the frame against anyone else. Liam Murphy was just as sharp, fast and compelling in his under-16 final win, but even so he had less than a bowl to spare on an exceptional Oisín Gribben. Gribben played what looked like a lead winning seventh bowl past the bridge to the slate quarry road. Murphy drove an absolute rocket into the bridge and it cannoned up the brae to shut the door on that contest.
Denise Murphy will be rewinding the tape too on her All-Ireland intermediate win, but it will be to bask in what may have been her finest performance and on the biggest stage too. Tim Kelleher was full value for his bowl of odds win over Brian Kinchin in the Veteran final while Lilly O’Rourke’s bowling improved dramatically in the second half of her win over Laura Sexton in the girls under-16 final.