Road bowlers asked to suspend crowded matches after large meeting

Locals in Co Cork angered after more than 100 people turned up for event

Traditional road bowlers in Cork have been asked to suspend crowded competitions following a reported gathering of about 100 people over the weekend.

The generations-old sport which involves hurling a bowling ball down a country road is understood to have vexed locals in the Donoughmore area of North Cork on Sunday.

A social media post showed a crowd of participants and spectators huddled on a small road.

One resident shared an image of the event with the text: “About 100 people congregated on the road near our house today to play road bowling.


“Not one mask. This is why we can’t ‘live with covid’.”

Although bowling is an extremely popular pastime in the county, the tweet served as the latest example of large gatherings that have the ability to vex others in the Covid-19 era.

The vast majority of those involved in Sunday’s match at Donoughmore, a very rural part of north Cork, were said to be men aged over 50. It is unclear who organised the event but people living in the vicinity were said to be annoyed by the close-quarters gathering.

Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Looney, who grew up in the area, said the event was not appropriate.

“I don’t think it should be [taking place]. Someone should get onto the organisers and state their case to them and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“That is something we don’t want and I am sure they would adhere to any rules. But I am sure when they’re out in the open they forget.”

Mr Looney said the sport is quite regularly played, particularly in the summer evenings, and can see large sums of money changing hands. However, insurance and the suitability of many country roads have become more of an issue in recent years.

According to Ból Chumann Na hEireann, or Irish Road Bowling, the sport is played with a 28 ounce ball with a circumference of approximately 18 centimetres.

Two contestants match their skills in throwing the bowl “along a carefully considered and tactically selected play-path” of normal roadway. The winner is the player who reaches the finishing line in the least number of throws or shots.

About four kilometres is the typical length of a modern match which, according to IRB, can be watched by any number of people from several dozen to many thousands depending on the importance of the event and the appeal of the particular pairing involved. Played in a number of counties, it is most prominent in Cork.

Fine Gael councillor Michael Creed said there had been an initial suspension of official matches due to Covid-19 but that it had since returned.

“The one thing about it is you’re totally out in the open,” he said. “You walk along the road as is the tradition.

“I don’t see anything wrong with road bowling I have to say if they keep to the limits and whatever number they are supposed [to cap it at].”

IRB could not be reached for comment on official guidelines.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times