READY TO PLAY The participants from the National Learning Network, Castlebar who will represent Mayo in the upcoming All-Ireland Road Bowling Championships. Pictured here with Ray McNamara of Mayo Sports Partnership (back row, second from right) and coach David Hughes (front right) in An Sportlann, Castlebar.
THE sound of laughter and excitement flowed through the hallways of An Sportlann, Castlebar last Wednesday afternoon as a group from the National Learning Network in the county town were busy preparing for the upcoming Unlimited All-Ireland Road Bowling Finals in Aughagower.
Those competitors, along with a group from the Carrowbeg Enterprise Network, will represent Mayo against teams from Bantry, Cork, Monaghan and further afield with all roads leading to the West Mayo village next week.
The competition will take place from Tuesday, September 11 to Thursday, September 13 and is the third time that the Aughagower club – the only one of its kind in the West of Ireland – is hosting the championships.
The event was first organised in 2002 by the West Cork Unlimited Road Bowling Club and has been a huge success since it has been brought to the west, according to David Hughes.
“This is a huge event for us to host in Aughagower,” the road bowling enthusiast said. “There will be 100 odd people participating at a time, on three roads in the village and from the Centre.
“We joined this event ten years ago when the Unlimited Road Bowling Club asked us to host the All-Ireland, and to be honest we didn’t even know this event existed.
“After that event a local lad, Conor Carney, joined our club and played every single Sunday. He’s won three All-Irelands since and is the biggest success we’ve had.”
The competitors skills will be tested in three disciplines over the three-day event: Road Bowling, Skittles and the Score Bowling; with the competitors graded to their strengths to ensure all abilities are catered for.
Cork native and Unlimited Road Bowling Club man, Bart Hurley, arrived in Mayo last Thursday to give a coaching lesson to the Mayo competitors and spoke very positively about his long affiliation with the event.
“There’s a huge appetitite for it,” he told The Mayo News. “Every year the participants meet each other again and make new friends, it’s fantastic to see.
“We give all the participants’ participation medals, and the winner and runner-up will get trophies.
“There is a presentation night on the Thursday night in the Castlecourt Hotel, Westport and to see the enjoyment on the faces of the participants on that night is magical. That’s what it is all about.”
The event will run from 10am to 2pm over the three days. The roads will not be closed around the locality but there will be stewards on hand, with drivers asked to watch their speed.
“Any help would be greatly appreciated,” David added. “Even if it’s just to steward, walk around between games, or just to generally help out.
“I would encourage anyone with a member of their family with a disability to come down and see how other sports can be adapted to suit. They don’t realise how much enjoyment they can get out of it.”
The event is being run in conjunction with Mayo Sports Partnership and Ray McNamara, Sports Inclusion Development Officer, said their aim is to promote inclusion and participation for everyone of all abilities across the county.
“The Sports Partnership role is to promote sport for everyone,” he told The Mayo News. “This is another sport for individuals who don’t necessarily get the chance to participate in other sports.
“I have contacted different groups and networks and all are very interested in getting involved. We’re hoping to do regular sessions of Score Bowls going forward for different groups to keep it sustainable.”