Castlehaven bowling heroine crowned All-Ireland champion


Posted on: 31st August, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: John Bohane

Castlehaven heroine Mairead O’Driscoll recently captured All-Ireland intermediate bowling glory when she defeated the Ulster champion Emma Jane O’Neill to claim an historic championship success. The West Cork bowling star was deservedly given a heroes welcome upon her return home to Castletownshend when her adoring family and supporters gathered to pay homage in recognition of her heroic feat. John Bohane caught up with the ace bowler who is still coming to terms with her All-Ireland success.

The modest star prevailed following an epic dual against the Orchard County native who began the score heavily favoured to win due to her home advantage. Mairead however produced an outstanding performance, propelling her to All-Ireland intermediate glory, which she recalls with great excitement. “It was a great win to get…to finish the season off with a victory. I had to work hard to secure glory, but you have to work hard in every score. There’s no point in holding back, you always have to give it your all. Emma was a great and very sporting opponent. She bowled very well. I suppose I got the luck on the day with a perfect start, which was vital. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. Everything seemed to click and go right for me on the day. I went ahead after the fourth shot and held the lead for the rest of the score, so it never looked like I was going to lose. I still had to put in the work for the entirety of the score. There was no let up, as Emma was such a worthy opponent. It was a great feeling to win and be crowned All-Ireland champion.”

Not surprisingly, Mairead admits to a slight bout of nerves on the morning of the All-Ireland final. Once she threw her first bowl in the much-anticipated score she soon settled into her stride. “My nerves were building throughout the morning. When we got to the road I really felt them working overtime, but more than anything I just wanted to get started. Once I had thrown the first shot my nerves settled and I forgot all about them thankfully.”

The bowling star is very grateful to all her supporters and family members who travelled in huge numbers to Armagh to witness her historic victory. “The support was overwhelming. There was fantastic support at the final and indeed throughout the whole season. It always gives me that extra bit of confidence and drive to win, seeing everyone out there to support me. I really appreciate everyone who travelled up to support me in my bid to become All-Ireland champion because it’s not an easy journey to make by any means. It made bowling a new road all the easier because it felt a little like I was bowling at home such was the support on the day. It made the weekend more enjoyable having my family and friends up there with me. A few of my uncles and cousins left Skibbereen at 5am on the morning of the score and surprised me by their presence up there so that really meant a lot. Their presence and support gave me extra incentive to succeed. I couldn’t believe it when I arrived on the road and they were there before me. The support from everyone was brilliant. It was great to win and celebrate with my family members and supporters.”

The celebrations following Mairead’s win continued abreast in the proud hinterland of Castlehaven when she returned to her native soil with the All-Ireland crown. She was feted by her adoring fans in both Tragumna and Castletownshend in scenes she will remember for years to come. “The celebrations were unreal when we got home to Castlehaven. Bonfires and the lot were waiting for us at Derryleigh Bridge. There were loads of placards out welcoming me home, it was great to see. It was a special evening. Lots of people turned out in Castletownshend that evening to welcome me back and I’m just happy that I could bring this All-Ireland home for them. It feels great to make the parish proud and I’m very grateful for everyone’s support. Later that night we descended on Tragumna where there were even more people waiting to welcome me home. The amount of support I received both prior to the final and in the aftermath of the All-Ireland final is unbelievable. We enjoyed the celebrations. We had worked hard all year to achieve our goal. It was a late night, but it was well worth it.”

Mairead, who has just completed her first year studying Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in UCC, took up road bowling at the age of ten at the behest of her father who was himself a keen bowler. She fell in love with the sport instantly. “I started bowling just before my tenth birthday. I was always involved in different sports when I was younger, but when I discovered bowling I knew it was the one for me. After that I focused on bowling and gave everything else up. My father is the person who got me involved in the sport. He bowled when he was younger so I suppose he wanted to see if I’d be any good at it. It was only for fun initially but then I started winning Carbery regional titles at underage level and he realised there might be a future in bowling for me. I have been bowling in the intermediate grade for the last three years and thankfully it proved third time lucky as I won the county, Munster and All-Ireland championship title this season.”

The reigning intermediate county champion will now compete in the senior ladies grade next season. Mairead is hoping she can make the step up to the top tier in ladies road bowling. “It seems daunting thinking about it. There is a big difference between the grades. It will be a challenge but that’s what I’m looking forward to. That’s the only way I’m going to improve my bowling, I need to bring myself up to the challenge.”

Since her success in the All-Ireland, Mairead has taken a short break from bowling in recent weeks. She will resume the sport in the coming weeks, as she prepares to enter the Queen of the Roads scheduled to be held in October. “The championship is now over for this season. We do have the Queen of the Roads coming up in October, so the qualifiers for that are starting up shortly. I’ve had a break from the bowling for a few weeks now since the All-Ireland final, but that’s long enough for me. I’m dying to get back to training. I need to get back into a routine. I can’t wait to start preparing for next year.”

Mairead maintains a very strict training regime which she rigidly adheres too. She hopes her punishing training schedule will usher in more championship success in the foreseeable future. “I try to go out every two or three nights for training. Usually I throw a good fifteen shots. If I’m not out practicing during the evenings, I’m probably watching a score with my father which helps me study other peoples techniques and playing styles. Sometimes at these scores I’d throw a few practice shots and if I’m lucky I’ll be asked to throw a pick-up score back. I’m always delighted when this happens because as good as throwing shots is for practice, you can’t compare it to throwing a proper score.”

The ambitious bowling star, who appears to possess a very bright future in bowling, has very ambitious targets ahead both in the short term and long term future. “In the short term I’ll be focusing on the Queen of the Roads and hopefully I’ll be bowling at the festival in mid October. I have to negotiate the qualifiers first. Any more wins this year will be an added bonus. In the long run I’ll be training hard during the winter to prepare myself for the senior championship next spring. It’ll be a big step up, but one I’m looking forward too. I won’t improve if I don’t challenge myself so I’m looking at it as an opportunity.”

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