The Ardagh Bowls team began nine years ago in 2010, thanks to the help of local resident and Welsh native, John Channon.
John, who was involved with the local Active Age group, was responsible for the provision of two bowling mats to the team and was fundamental in it’s foundation. These mats allowed the team to begin honing up their skills and set their sights on taking part in competitive matches.
Members of the team vary in age from 30 upwards, with people of all ages encouraged to come along and join the fun. The team, which is primarily comprised of locals, meet for practice every Thursday from 8-10pm at the Ardagh Community centre.
Club chair Sean Farrell explained, “We currently have twenty two members in the club. It is open for everybody to get involved and play bowls.
“We train every Thursday from 8-10pm. Our youngest player Brian Farrell would be in his mid-30’s,” he continued.
Team member Martin Farrell added, “We are lucky to have the community centre. The length is extremely important in bowls, you really need the space.”
The use of the community centre comes at a cost of €5 per person per training, though new members can avail of three free sessions to start with. Martin and Sean encouraged others to try their hand at bowls and pledged to help any new members become a master of the sport.
Martin remarked, “People see that we won this and that and they think it is too competitive, but we have mats for people who want to play casual bowls. We cannot stress that enough.
“We will also spend the night showing them how the game works.”
One of the main problems for the club going forward is a lack of female and youth representation, something they are hoping to rectify in the coming years.
“Some of the players are getting old, some of the teams are finding it hard to field a team and don’t like to travel far, especially in the winter,” Martin Farrell said.
“My wife plays with us as well and she is actually the club treasurer, but we are finding it a bit hard to attract female members.”
Sean Farrell continued, “We actually only have two female members at the minute.”
It took one year of constant practicing until the team finally became involved in a competitive league, which is now named Longford/Westmeath County Bowls. They are currently the only Longford representation within the league, though they will soon be joined by a team from Longford town.
Martin told the Leader, “We started competing in the league in around 2011. It was the Westmeath league when we joined. It has now become the Longford/Westmeath league, because of us in a way.
“We want more people involved. The more teams the better,” he continued.
Although the bowling venture started off as a hobby for many, the competitive streak which lay dormant within members of the Ardagh Bowls club soon became prominent as they collectively began to focus on gathering silverware. Their first taste of success came in the year 2014, when they won the Division 2 title.
Martin explained, “In 2013, we were runners up in Division 2. That was a big achievement at the time and the following year we went and won it out.”
Now boasting an A and a B team, with teams chosen according to grades, the success hasn’t ended there for the Ardagh Bowls team and they have proceeded to take the league by storm. In fact, the B team were runners up in Division 2 this year, while the A team took home the Div. 1 league and cup double.
Sean explained, “We have won the Division 1 league three years in a row now and we won the cup twice out of two years.”
The only thing not won by the Ardagh club in 2019 was the singles competition in Streete, such is their recent dominance of the sport.
“We host the Longford/Westmeath pairs every year here in Ardagh, which we won this year on our home ground,” Martin Farrell said.
Being involved in the team not only allows them to feed their addiction to sport, but also provides members with a social outlet and allows them to make new friends along the way.
“We are all friends. In fact, everyone in the league are becoming a big group of friends,” Martin said.
Sean added, “You get to know a lot of people, because after the games there is always tea and biscuits. So, you usually sit down and have a chat with your competitors afterwards.
“You are meeting the same people year in year out during competitions.”
The social side doesn’t end there either, as club chair, Sean, explained, “We usually call into Lyon’s after training and matches for a pint and a chat.
“They often sponsor the bus for us to and from matches and functions.”
Martin continued, “The league is sponsored by the Greville Arms and that is where we have the presentation of cups at the end of each year.
“We also have a dinner dance every year and go to the Rustic Inn at Christmas for a night out.”
To help pay for transport to and from games and social outings, they operate a bonus ball fundraiser every Saturday.
Martin said, “We do a Bonus Ball every Saturday, which helps us finance some of it. That has been very successful for us.
“It has allowed us to save up a few bob and we eventually bought two more mats so we can now host competitions in the league.”
Although the main aim of the team going forward is to get their hands on silverware which has so far eluded them, Sean and Martin have stressed the importance of attracting new members to the club. If anyone wants to get involved all one has to do is contact Sean on 087 908 3115 or call into the community centre during one of the training sessions.
Martin told the Leader, “One or two people came before when there was a match on and they were turned off it. If we got enough newcomers, we may even try to have a separate training day for them.
“Then they would have a free night with all four mats free and someone showing them how to play correctly. Try it anyway, if you don’t like it that’s ok.
“We give three free nights for newcomers, so it won’t cost you a penny,” he concluded.