One of the lesser-played sports in Cork is lawn bowls. Bill Fitzgerald, President of the St Michael’s Bowls Club in Blackrock, describes it as a low-cost sport with numerous social and health benefits that can last a lifetime. And at 81 years of age, Bill is a walking example of its virtues…
One of the biggest challenges faced by Bill Fitzgerald, President of the St Michael’s Bowls Club in Blackrock, is tackling the perception that, as he puts it, “bowls is a sport for old fogeys”.
While the ages of players at St Michael’s, from 14 right up to 93, is an impressive rejoinder to anyone who would doubt the cross-generational appeal of bowls, Bill admits the difficulty in trying to infuse the club with all important new blood.
He admits that it is a sport that benefits retired people who are looking for a sport and social outlet that does not require huge expense or a demanding level of physical fitness.
“We have people among our members who suffer from arthritis, and have bad hips and bad knees, and that doesn’t stop them coming along and playing their bowls. They love it, but they also really benefit from the very good social side to it as well.”
The atmosphere at the venerable club, which has been in existence since the 1930s, and is adjacent to St Michael’s Lawn Tennis Club, is a major bonus. “I put my good health down to the outdoor sports that I play, and with bowls, the social dimension is really important. I recently introduced a new member to the club, his wife had passed away some months previously, and he was becoming quite depressed. He wasn’t getting out very much. But now, he is one of our most ardent members! He is really into it, so it’s great to see the difference the club has made to that man’s life,” Bill explained.
“You meet a lot of friends, and if you enjoy the sport and want to be competitive, there are a lot of interclub competitions with the only other outdoor bowling club in Cork, the Church of Ireland at Garryduff, and in national competitions as well. So you get to travel and meet new people, as well as having that outlet for your competitive side,” Bill explains.