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Road Bowling in County Armagh

Road bowling was listed as a national Irish pastime back in the 1880’s and placed alongside Gaelic football and hurling in national importance. Now it is played predominantly in counties Armagh and Cork but it does go back many centuries before and most probably originated in Armagh.

In the rules of the game, the bowler throws an iron ball along a road, travelling at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. A crowd lining the roads watches but moves quickly from the advancing ball travelling at speed! When the ball lands on the road, its final location is marked with chalk. The rules, according to Bol Chumann na hÉireann, the Irish Road Bowling Association are simple; that whoever reaches the end of this course with the least throws will win the contest.

It’s a true sport for everyone; free to watch, no uniform to buy and no formal training. Skills are high and local teams are created from small townlands and villages. It is played in all weathers and is for young, and not so old, male and female.

So next time you travel around quiet county roads in Armagh, be watchful of an iron ball making its way at speed among a crowd of cheering supporters!