BÓL CHUMANN NA hÉIREANN is the national association for road bowling in Ireland
(Extracts from an article written by Noel Magnier and published in The Examiner in 2004)
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Now and Then: Liam O'Keeffe celebrating the 50th anniversary of his great victory over Ned Berry in Cloghroe in 1954

Founded in Enniskeane on November 20, 1954, the association celebrated its golden jubilee in 2004 with a full calendar of events starting with a gala celebratory dinner at the Rochestown Park Hotel and culminating with a special Mass and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the West Cork village of Enniskeane, where it all began 50 years before.

The sport of road bowling has a long and illustrious history and can trace its roots as far back as the 1600’s when, it is said, that it was the army of the Dutch invader, William of Orange - using cannon balls - introduced the sport to Ireland.

There are further accounts of flax and linen workers from Yorkshire in England who are said to have brought the game here when working in Cork and Armagh 300 years ago.

Whatever about the antecedents of road bowling in ancient times, what is a fact is that in the 21st century the game is flourishing, thanks mainly to those men who gathered in the village hall of Enniskeane and laid the template for the future.

They could hardly have envisaged even then the far-reaching consequences of their deliberations and the profound impact upon a sport that they took from the by-roads of Cork City and County to international recognition in Germany, Holland, Italy, the US, the UK and Spain.

By any standard this is remarkable progress in a relatively short time from humble beginnings in 1954, when the precursor of Ból Chumann, the All-Ireland Bowl Players Association managed the sport on an ad-hoc basis under the championship of Conny Connell from Blackpool in Cork along with fellow Cork men Jim Cadden, Jimmy Dean, John O’Mahoney, Tommy Healy and Jack O’Shea.

It was this association who initially organised the first senior championship in 1954 and handed over to Ból Chumann, who took over in 1955 when the All-Ireland Bowl Players Association became defunct. The links established with Armagh set the stage for future interaction of both counties which has forged solid links over the intervening decades.

The fledgling association members were quickly into their stride under the chairmanship of Flor Crowley, the honorary secretary Eamonn O’Carroll and treasurer Hugh O’Neill. The trio were a veritable powerhouse of organisational ability and, after the completion of the first ever men’s senior bowling championship (under the aegis of the All-Ireland Bowl Players Association) in 1954, there was a seamless continuation which led smoothly into the 1955 Men’s Senior Championship and to subsequent championships and the development of the sport under strict but fair rules of play.