Roddy L’Estrange: Team-mates bowled over by Vinny’s winning roll

Burly busman steps into the breach to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

As play unfolded at a funereal pace, and in a monastic silence broken only by the occasional clink, Vinny Fitzpatrick questioned his sanity.

"How did I allow Charlie Vernon talk me into this?" he said to himself. "Bugger this for a lark."

It was a chilly Monday and Vinny found himself in Furry Park, close by the M50 for a mid-winter bowling friendly.

He’d had his arm twisted over a few pints the night before by Charlie, who extolled the benefits of fresh air, the camaraderie of competition, and the challenge of learning a new skills-set.


“‘We’re always looking for new members as we seem to, er, lose one or two every year,” said Charlie, a stalwart of the local Green Lanes club.

It was a short spin to Sportslink on the old Airport Road where Charlie’s crew were playing the local hot-shots.

“They’re retired civil servants mostly, deadly on their own patch. It’s an all-weather rink, which is great for us, as we get to keep our arm in, off-season,” said Charlie.

After a crash course in the rules, Vinny shuffled from end to end as the battle of the blue-rinse brigade was engaged.

Their age profile was high, so high that Vinny half expected to see David Bryant and his unlit pip wheeled out from the pavilion.

A stalactite

By now his feet were numb, and his hands buried so deep into his pockets, he couldn’t be bothered to wipe away the blob of snot which hung from his nose like a stalactite.

All he could think of was a hot mug of sugary tea and a choccie bikkie.

"Parky isn't it?" said a stranger, whose stealthy arrival startled Vinny somewhat. "I'm Toby. Toby Moreton, ' he continued. 'Do you play yourself?"

Vinny turned to the newcomer, a dapper figure in full-length coat and homburg hat.

“Howya, Vinny Fitzpatrick,” he said.

“I’m here to support my pal, the tall chap over there,’ pointed Vinny. “He’s trying to recruit me.”

Toby Moreton nodded.

“I’m not surprised. The sport needs as many players as they can get. Turnover, shall we say, is relatively high.”

Vinny smiled back.

“I get your drift. The average age must be nudging 70.”

After a few minutes of companionable silence, Toby Moreton blew on his hands.

“Well, best be off. I was just checking our new advertising was in place.

“By the way, here’s my card, if you ever need me.”

Vinny scanned the business card, which read ‘Moreton & Moreton, Funeral Directors, Church Street, Malahide.’

He aimed a quizzical glance at the retreating figure of Toby Moreton and then looked closer at his surrounds.

Sure enough, dotted around the rink were signs for ‘Moreton & Moreton Fingal Bowling League – We’re Dying To Meet You.’

Vinny blinked.

“Jaypurs, talk about touting for business.”

At that, there was a cry from the rink as the tall figure of Charlie Vernon collapsed on the synthetic surface.

“Blimey O’Reilly,” said Vinny aloud.

Still nimble

Within seconds, for he was still nimble over short distances, Vinny was on the scene.

It briefly crossed his mind he might have to give Toby Moreton the heads up, but thankfully Charlie wasn’t in need of CPR.

“I’ve twisted my ankle,” said Charlie with grimace to emphasise his new discomfort.

“I was walking backwards from the jack and slipped on a bowl. Schoolboy error.’

As Charlie was helped up, he turned to Vinny.

“You’ll have to stand in for me. There’s only one end left and I’m up by a point. Four bowls. Think you can manage that?’

Vinny shrugged. “No bother,” he replied casually.

Vinny’s opponent, a spry-looking gent in glasses and woolly hat, bounced the jack lightly in his hand.

“My roll, kid,” he said coldly.

The next few minutes were tricky for Vinny. As dead-eye Dick rolled four bowls in a tight cluster around the jack, Vinny’s frailties were exposed.

His first effort disappeared off the far end of the rink some 30 metres away.

“That’s in the ditch,” said his opponent tersely.

Vinny’s next roll barely made it halfway and his third, delivered with his backhand, shot out of his paw at right-angles and careered into one of Toby Moreton’s ads.

By now, a crew of elderly lads and lassies had gathered around the last unfinished game.

A cheer

Vinny had one final roll at redemption. As he weighed up his options he thought of Bryant on TV back in the day when bowls was on the box once a year. Instantly, he knew what he must do.

He held the jack to his right eye, squinted and took aim.

The delivery was low, fast and as straight as a die. “Like a hot knife thought butter,” thought Vinny as his bowl smacked into Dead-Eye Dick’s tight-knit quartet.

There were a couple of large clackety-clack sounds as balls scattered hither and tither, including the jack. As it plopped into the ditch marking the end of the rink, there was a cheer from the Green Lanes gang.

At that, Vinny couldn't help himself. He smacked a fist against his burly chest and shouted aloud, "B'ole, b'ole, b'ole, b'ole……b'ole, b'ole."