Duck and cover — Irish Road Bowling tournament is today

WHEELING – Bring an accurate arm, a few friends – and perhaps most importantly, a little luck o’ the Irish – to Wheeling Park today and you just might be the next Irish Road Bowling Ohio Valley champion.

Registration for the fourth-annual tournament, hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a local Catholic men’s organization, begins at noon Saturday at Wheeling Park’s Sonneborn Shelter. A portion of the proceeds go to charity each year.

The sport of Irish road bowling dates back about 400 years and remains popular on the Emerald Isle today. Its popularity is growing across the pond, too, with multiple events held each year. About 300 bowlers on 60 teams took part in the Wheeling tournament last year.

Elm Grove resident and Hibernian Bill O’Leary said participants really get into the spirit for the tournament. Some have special team T-shirts made for the event, while others even wear kilts.

“That’s the one thing about this sport – if you lose, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve had fun from start to finish,” he said.

The rules of the game are simple – team members take turns throwing or rolling a steel ball along a country road. The spot where the ball either stops or leaves the road is marked, and the next person up must throw from behind that mark. The team that requires the fewest number of throws to complete the course is declared the winner.

The balls are slightly smaller than tennis balls, but weigh about 2 pounds each.

“I bet the UPS guy loves it when he has to deliver those to (my son) Craig’s house,” O’Leary quipped.

Following registration, a shuttle will take participants from Sonneborn Shelter to the start of the course at the intersection of Brown’s Run and Boggs Hill roads. From there, it’s about 1.25 miles back to the finish at Wheeling Park.

O’Leary said it took last year’s winning team 25 throws to complete the course.

Following the competition, there will be dinner at the shelter at approximately 4 p.m., followed by Irish music and dancing.