So I had learned a fair bit about road Bullets from the previous Sunday and had met some great characters from Newtownhamilton and An Port Mor. I had grasped the simple essence of the sport but there was more to learn.
I was looking forward to going with Walter Murphy – who along with a few others got the Newtownhamilton road bowls going in the late sixties. Walter regaled me with tales of the true inspiration of the club, one Dickie Burke, a teacher who taught in Keady, lived in Newtown but who was one hell of a wit.
Walter also told me about Martin Rowland and how good he was. Yet what stuck in my mind was the banter among those participants in road bowls, the craic they had and the criac of further matches. They talked of those with the true skill to read a road, the ones who had the nerve to withstand the stress of competition.
Then there was the female aspect. Lady luck would always play a big part in some victories. She deserted some and favoured others, she sure was a fickle woman.
I write this with Sunday fresh in the memory but with a lot of aches in my body: age has got to me but I still would love to go again. There was a positive element, I got to walk and was this not exercise. It put a smile on my face.
What was so noticeable was that there was a core of young lads in both clubs and I do hope they continue on with this sport. It would be a great pity to see it disappear through lack of interest. I can state that there is a high level of skill in both clubs and all involved should be praised for starting this annual inter-club event a few years ago and keeping this past time truly alive and sporting.
So well prepared we set off for Blackwaterstown, just 35 minutes down the road. They are so proud of calling their place An Port Mor and I can understand this.
Our timing was a bit poor for we arrived as the first match was underway. So a walk to catch up and to see the course lay ahead of us . A better tarmac surface and some bends and hills to contend with.
So the weather looked poor as light hail fell but it cleared to leave bright blue skies: the cold wind still blew. It was a tight match but it would take a huge slice of luck for Newtown to win. It never arrived and An Port Mor won easily enough. That old disappearance of mistress lady luck.
The next match was the one to inspire me. BD, told us standing about that An Port Mor had the better pair for the second match and this put a bit of a dampener on the spirits. Lesson number 2 million and ninety nine, BD is not good at the form forecasting, I should know this but forgot it entirely.
The pairing of young Garvey and Carragher was to prove the opposite. Somehow they threw brilliantly and I thought I would never see myself cheering at a lump of round lead rolling along the road but I did. On one particular throw by Garvey the bullet stayed on the road and then crested the brow of a hill and bend. I saw men jumping and yelling as the bullet followed the course of the bend and continued on rolling. It was a truly marvellous throw, it made men smile and made others frown.
So the overall match was all level. Hope returned to the Newtown side and the walk back was looked forward to. In my mind was, who would Lady Luck and composure settle on? Who would hold their nerve?
Third match and caught up in the tension I forget to ask who were the pairs.
I was to see the An Port Mor men jumping into the air with glee at least three times and the frowns now upon the Newtown men. The road was unkind. An Port Mor won the third and now had the advantage going into the last match. The ups and downs of sport.
By this stage I was feeling exhausted and all I wanted to do was to sit down. Then as I looked towards the homeward journey I am told, a little bit more of a outward walk.
Before beginning the fourth match a couple of smaller matches were to be played so the walk went on towards Armagh. I have to mention that Brendan Davidson amazed me with his skill. ‘Not bad for an auld timer’ he would say and smile! Even I appreciated this and smirk myself.
Oh I should mention this little aside to the proceedings. One year previous to the very day Liam Davidson got married! What a way to spend a first anniversary. Some would say he was truly lucky. What I did learn about Liam was that he can ‘slag’ just as good as anyone but a broad smile settled on his face as the anniversary fact was stated.
The two matches went to An Port Mor but as stated before, age and tiredness had me hankering for the last match to begin. I needed a rest and a bit of heat for the cold bones.
What can I say about the last match! Lady Luck went both ways to both teams at certain times. Some of the throwing was astounding but An Port Mor turned out to be the winners.
We made our way slowly towards the pub, exhausted. Some with less money in their pockets and others the opposite. Being outdoors and then going in to heat and a comfortable seat, I could feel the tiredness. I wanted to sleep but before long the craic has started. Harry Davidson was the only one to fall into a restful sleep.
Great food was served and as for the singing competition it was a real hoot. Young Rocks, living in Newry now, from Newtown won this in my estimation. The singer before him had the pubs laughing and hooting and then Young Rocks begins and immediately a reverent silence comes quickly down. Not a person moved, not a sound was made as he began with a poem that linked into his song. Truly memorable.
Those still left later on, got to see a sight as, two bare chested, shirtless men danced to some silly song. Who cared, it was such a laugh!
So like all good things, there comes the parting but I know that I will be back next year.
So the Garveys, Rocks, O Rourkes, Cahertys. Davidsons, Carraghers, Hollywoods, Murphys, Swing and a few more, had a few memories to regale others at a later date. If I have forgotten to name people, I crave their pardon, exhaustion and age makes me forget. This stands for the An Port Mor club as well. I was having far too much craic to note down names. I used to remember names easily but not now. I have not forgotten about the photographs though.
Walter and Martin floated a fantastic idea in the Cosy bar the previous week. A special disabled veterans’ match. A person had to have sore hips and be ‘past it’ to be able to enter, so Brendan Davidson was a non-starter.
I could make this. Even in fun some things have an air of becoming reality. Stranger things have happened. It makes me laugh this thought. Sport and good company should create laughter in the heart, soul and mind.
I had a great time, a long walk or two, very fresh and cold air, Lady Luck favouring both teams at times, two evenings of great food, laughter and a song or two. Not bad and a few memories to forever treasure.
Max Boyce, the Welsh singer, got it right. ‘Being there’ was the really important thing.
‘Bullets’ has its own truly remarkable style and atmosphere and long may it continue.
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