Armagh’s Ethan Rafferty claims Ulster Road Bowling Championship

Sport is a love affair bounding unpredictably between romantic highs and potential heartbreaks. The stakes could not be higher just now on both sides of the border. Armagh pair Ethan Rafferty and Kelly Mallon have an eye on a dream double of All-Ireland success at football and bowling, while in Fermoy they harbor hopes of an unprecedented haul of the top three titles in men’s bowling.

Hearts will be broken before July is out. But just now the dream is alive. Ethan Rafferty could have a double date on the second weekend of July. He will be hoping to be in goals for Armagh in an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park on the Saturday and winning the All-Ireland intermediate bowling final on the Sunday.

Kelly Mallon, probably the greatest woman bowler of all time, will be hoping her team advance by beating Monaghan next weekend and that she retains her Ulster senior crown to book a place in the All-Ireland final in Ballincurrig next month.

In Fermoy there is a palpable sense that they could be on a date with destiny. All-Ireland senior champion Arthur McDonagh has booked his place in the Munster semi-final; his younger brother Timmy will contest next Saturday’s Munster Junior A final and the following day Patrick Flood will play in the Munster intermediate final.

It’s first date territory for both Timmy McDonagh and Flood, who face formidable opposition in John Creedon and Donal O’Riordan respectively. The Fermoy pair have the advantage of playing on their second home at Ballincurrig, but make no mistake they are playing two serious bowlers.

Ethan Rafferty’s double commitments were eased when Ulster finalist Conor McGuigan had to withdraw from the championship because of injury. So what was billed as the Ulster semi-final against Sean Donnelly at Eglish became the final. Donnelly won the first three to McNally’s corner.

Rafferty led with a big fourth and raised a bowl with his ninth to Ewing’s. A great bowl from Burton’s put him almost two clear. He raised the second bowl at Reid’s and eased home.

To qualify, for the Munster final Patrick Flood beat Wayne Callanan by two bowls at Bweeng. He led by 30m at the top of the hill, but Callanan won the lead to the “Tinny Shed”.

Flood then played a massive bowl on the flat to raise almost a bowl. He had close to two bowls after two more on the straight. The contest fizzled out from there. O’Riordan booked his place earlier in the month when he beat Tim Young at Bantry.

McDonagh was locked in a tight contest till Denis O’Driscoll picked up an injury in his semi-final at Kilcorney. O’Driscoll raised a bowl with his first. McDonagh cut the odds with a big seventh, but O’Driscoll pushed almost a bowl clear after ten. He was injured in the next throw and McDonagh got ahead in the closing stages. John Creedon beat Tom O’Donovan in the other semi-final at the Clubhouse.

They went out the cross level in four. Creedon gained good odds to Clonakilty cross. He played a brilliant one towards O’Riordan’s to raise a bowl and was in control from there. He’s now in the final of a championship he contested for the first time as an 18-year old in 1990.

Hannah Sexton is through to the Munster senior women’s final. She held off a strong late challenge from Meghan Collins at Ballincurrig. European champion Rachel Kingston qualified for the Munster under-18 final when she beat Ellen Sexton in the last shot at Drinagh. Cork’s great dual-star Juliet Murphy led from line to line in the Munster intermediate championship at Templemartin.

European champion Séamus Sexton plays All-Ireland champion Arthur McDonagh in the Munster senior semi-final. Sexton was cruising entering the closing stages at Klondrohid, till Aidan Murphy opened the last bend to raise the adrenalin levels. McDonagh beat Gary Daly by two bowls at Carraig na bhFear. He had 80m odds after seven to the creamery.

He quickly turned that into a bowl and raised a second to the line. Martin Coppinger was as clear a winner over amon Bowen at Baile Bhuirne. He was over a bowl in front at the council yard and raised a second one at Moynihan’s cross. He plays Michael Bohane in the semi-final.

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