COOPER’S ROCK -One sport competing for a championship right now that won’t be shown during the Olympics, and not likely to make ESPN either, is Irish Road Bowling.
The centuries old Irish sport stopped in West Virginia for the Irish Road Bowling North American Region Finals where more than 20 of the top competitors faced off for a chance to travel to Ireland.
“Very simply, its taking a steel ball, and throwing it down the road, and running after it. That’s road bowling,” said John Nelson of the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association.
It may not be Cowboys Stadium or the Superdome, but Cooper’s Rock was the home to this year’s Irish Road Bowling finals.
Athletes from across the country gathered to compete head-to-head, throwing 28 ounce steel-balls down a more than one mile stretch of road.
“It’s kind of like golf,” said Scott Koon of Morgantown. “It just takes practice being able to learn how to be consistent”
“It’s hand to eye coordination,” said Con O’Callaghan of Boston, MA. “It’s pretty much like hitting a baseball, once you get used to it, you either have it or you don’t have it.”
Each year West Virginia is well represented in the competition, but it’s no secret that many Irish immigrants are the top players in the country.
“It’s like an American playing Baseball, or American Football. We’ve been doing it since we were kids growing up, 9, 10, 12 years of age,” O’Callaghan said. “We’ve been doing it all our lives, it’s the same as you guys play little league baseball, we would be playing road bowling in Ireland.”
“I got a chance to play with them in Boston last year,” Koon said, “and these guys are great at it, so it’s just fun to compete with them.”
Players make the tournament through local and state competitions. The champions crowned on Sunday, August 5, are then invited to Ireland to compete.
Of course the game is not all about winning.
“We come to West Virginia once a year, they come to us and meeting a lot of old friends and going for a few beers after, having the chatter and having the banter. It’s a fun sport,” O’Callaghan said.
To learn more about Irish Road Bowling visit the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association’s web site