The old Irish tradition of road bowling catches on across the United States
Colleen Slattery, Sports Editor
The Irish are said to have the gift of gab, but did you know that they also have the gift of inventiveness? This inventiveness is displayed perfectly in the sport of road bowling, a game that developed in 17th century Ireland, and is still played there today.
Road bowling has evolved over time. In its early years, each player was given 20 shots, and the player who threw the ball farthest with those shots won the game. The ball itself was an iron and steel cannonball, about seven inches in circumference and 28 ounces in weight. And of course, it could be played on any road. The ball was typically rolled down the road, but if there were tight curves or a crossroads in the road, the ball could be lofted in the air to move the thrower on.
Today the game is still played on roads, but it has become more akin to the game of golf. A distance of up to four kilometers is marked out, and the players compete to see who can throw farthest with the fewest attempts.
It is very much a spectator sport; there are road showers who advise the thrower and others who mark out the best path or line of fire for the thrower to take. Many people come and line the road, betting on the outcome and encouraging their favorite throwers. The Irish have both hot tempers and quick tongues, so it is very common that there are disputes over the game. Up until the 1950s, matches occasionally caused public disturbances due to disputes between competitors and spectators, and there have even been court cases incurred because of such disputes.
The game originated and is still most popular in the counties of Cork and Armagh in Ireland. In the past, it was also played in Scotland and England, but it has fallen out of popularity there. Luckily, it has caught on in the United States and is played in Traverse City, Mich.; Boston, Mass.; Bronx, N.Y. and Asheville, N.C. And considering the high concentration of people with Irish descent at the University of Dallas, I would not be surprised to see a few boys from Madonna throwing rocks down Northgate Drive one of these days. Look out, UD, Irish road bowling is rolling your way!
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