On the surface it may not exactly look like the most exciting sport in the world to watch, but if you’re watching a game of indoor bowls between two talented players, it can be a fantastic battle of wits and tactics.
My name is Niall Martin, and I started playing bowls about five or six years ago. I originally got into it when my father(who had been playing since the early 1990s) asked me if I wanted to have a go at the local club. I wasn’t so sure originally, mainly because I thought it would just be boring. But since I wasn’t doing anything else, I decided to go anyway and surprised myself in that I actually had quite a fun time. Because of that, I decided to actually make a go of it and see how good I could be at this.
In Ireland, all official indoor bowls is organised by the Irish Indoor Bowling Association(the IIBA for short). Through this organisation, The country is split up into zones for qualifying tournaments for the national championships, as well as each zone picking a team for the interzone championships held every year.(Similar to counties picking a team from local clubs within its borders)
At the moment indoor bowls is played mostly in the northern half of the country, mainly because it was introduced from the UK, so unfortunately, I don’t get many chances to play in Galway. However, there are zones as far south as Meath, as well as there being a zone in Cork. I am with a club in the Oriel zone (made up of south Monaghan, South Armagh, Louth and Eastern Cavan). With the zone I have played with the U18 zone team for 3 years, where we won the all Ireland in my second and third years as part of the team.
Since I’ve turned eighteen I’ve been trying to get into the men’s zone team, which unfortunately I’ve been unable to do, mainly because the team has been consistently good in the last few years. However, my father has been a mainstay on the team for at least the last decade, where they have reached the all Ireland final on numerous occasions in recent years, which, I can say from personal experience, were genuinely some brilliant spectacles.
It’s not exactly a widely known sport, but it has enabled me to meet plenty of new people, as well as winning a few medals on the way!
By Niall Martin
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(images taken from http://www.orielzone.com)