Want a New Country Pursuit? Then Try Road Bowling


For those of you who like a bit of fresh misty air, and some sly roadside betting, then this sport is for you.

Irish road bowling (Ból an bhóthair) is an ancient sport. It is centered in Ireland – primarily in County Armagh and County Cork. However, it also has players in the USA and New Zealand.

So how do you play this country sport? Players throw the steel ball (called a bullet or a bowl – pronounced more like howl…not to be confused with bowel) across a 4km course, he or she who needs the least amount of throws to get it there wins. But here’s the fun bit: if you don’t fancy throwing a metal sphere around a road like some sort of country maniac, then you can take part in the betting. What is fun about this is that the person you have placed a bet on becomes your target. You get to stalk them the entirety of the game, seeing if they will comes good on the game and you will see your money returned many times over.

As a better, you can also give advice to that player, probably annoying him or her in the process. Just remember they are in possession of a very strong steel ball.

Wherever the bullet stops on the road, a mark in chalk is made, and the next throw is taken from that mark. Over tight curves, or corners where two roads meet, the bowl may be thrown through the air (lofted). If two players or teams approach the finish line with equal shots, the winner is decided by which throw goes the longest distance past the finish line. God help any sheep that get in the way. Or your brand new windscreen.

This is a game not only about the strength of a throw. It’s about negotiating the bendy, lumpy and hedge-frosted country roads of mainly Co. Cork and Co. Fermanagh.

As the game is going on, players and betters will shout Faugh a Ballach! It’s an Irish battle cry which means “clear the way!” So if you hear Faugh a Ballach your umbrella won’t help you. Run for your life.


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