Blackwater State Park Hosts North American Region Finals Event
Irish road bowling is not a sport known in most areas but that didn’t stop approximately two dozen competitors from Boston, New York, and West Virginia from attending this vent.
Justin Knapp from Huntington closing in on the finish line in a close race with Team New York
The location of this event rotates and won’t be hosted in our state again until 2021. This sport began back in the 1600’s when Irish troops would steel British cannon balls and roll them back to camp. In the 1860’s during the American Civil War, Irish troops would bowl between battles. In 1995, the event came to Ireland, W. Va. and started as four person teams. Today it can be a team or an individual event.
The idea of the sport is to roll the twenty eight ounce cannon ball down the roadway as far as you can. The course for this particular day was 1.1 miles in length. The competitor to get to the finish line in the least number of throws wins the heat. There are many factors to take into consideration to be successful in Irish road bowling. One must have their footing in time, decide which throwing style is best for you (underhand roll or fast pitch softball style), timing of the release, spin put on the ball, strength for maximum speed, and road grade and curves. Once the ball leaves the roadway, the team marker will bring it parallel back to the roadway and mark the road where the next throw will begin. A road shower assists the throwers by going ahead down the road and evaluating the grade to help guide them for proper roll placement to aid in the best throw possible.
There are very few rules to this event. The main one is called “breaking butt”, which means you crossed the line on a throw where your last ball landed, and you must throw again. In tight curves or where two road corners meet, the ball can be hurled through the air but it must strike the road. If it doesn’t reach the road, it counts as one shot but the next throw must be taken from behind that mark. In the case of two competitors reaching the finish line with the same number of throws, the winner is dictated by which throw went furthest past the finish line. The competitors are also broken up by grades. You begin as a novice, or grade four, and if you win the All-Ireland Finals in your respected grade, you advance to the next level.
The competitors who were throwing on Saturday, August 4, had to qualify to compete at this event. Unfortunately for grade two competitor Ken McClintic, Lewis County resident for Team West Virginia, this meant beating out his own son. “We were hoping it would be a one two split, but we ended up playing each other”, said McClintic. Dave Powell, the public relations officer for the WVIRBA, introduced McClintic to the sport back in 2004 and he has been competing ever since. It was then he decided to get it started being played in the state parks, beginning with Holly River State Park. “You can’t beat playing in a state park like this in the outdoors. It is family friendly, too”, stated McClintic. Though he has never been to Ireland or past the North American Regionals, he is hoping to soon change that.
Stephen Holmes II, President of the WVIRBA is serving his third year in the elected position. “There are twenty two other events in West Virginia, predominantly in state parks”, Holmes explained. There is no fee to play and it is open to the public. West Virginia offers team events and everyone who wants to throws. Holmes said his goal for the event is he is “trying to promote the people to get outside and exercise and enjoy the outdoors”. Holmes was proud to say the West Virginia club is currently the biggest in North America, open to both men and women.
Bryan Wimer from Morgantown scopes the terrain as his wife and three sons look on
At the conclusion of the tournament on Sunday, Team West Virginia was well represented. Results were as follows: Novice 4 Andy Shay – Team WV from Buckhannon, Novice 3 Morgan Ware -Team WV also from Buckhannon, Novice 2 Kevin McGrath – Team Boston, Novice 1 Lyndon Kiely – Team Boston, Ladies Class Kristen Daft – Team WV from Reedsville, and Junior C Champion Adrian Lappin – Team New York. Lappin is a four time All Ireland Champion and one of the highest rated bowlers in North America. Good luck to all of these North American Regional Finals winners and good luck at the All Ireland Championship! If you would like to learn more about this sport, check out their facebook page West Virginia Irish Road Bowling, or their website www.wvirishroadbowling.com