Irish road bowling – a sport combining bowling and golf – will make its debut in New Milford

NEW MILFORD – A unique sporting event, loosely combining golf and bowling with two to four players on a team, will make its local debut on July 30 when Irish road bowling comes to town.

Called Irish Road Bowling because it originated and is still played in Ireland, the game is played on a 1 mile stretch of a country road. A 28-ounce cannonball (called a bowl) is used and sneakily thrown into the game. There are no pins to knock down. But like in bowling, the bowler cannot cross the starting line when he drops the ball, and the main thing is to keep the ball in the center of the road for the longest distance, while avoiding going out of the edge of the road (gutter ball).

Golf comes into play because the score is similar, with the lowest score winning the game. One person from each team rolls the ball, and the number of times the ball is rolled to reach the finish line is a team’s score. If two teams are equal in number of balls, the one whose last ball crosses the finish line the farthest is the winner.

The main thing is to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.


New Milford Councilman Chris Cosgrove is one of the organizers of the event. Co-sponsors of the event are New Milford Parks and Recreation and the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Danbury.

“The idea came about when some of my local Irish friends (Steve Looney, Frank McCabe and Conor McCabe) mentioned an Irish road bowling event in Hartford last year,” Cosgrove said. “We couldn’t go due to a dispute, but other HAO Danbury members went and had a great time. My thought was that we should try to get one in New Milford.

He pitched the idea to the events manager of the New Milford Parks and Recreation Department, who was “immediately excited”, he said. The mayor of New Milford “endorsed it wholeheartedly,” Cosgrove also said.

Cosgrove is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians – or AOH – in Danbury. He said the City of New Milford is helping with the logistics of the event. The Department of Public Works will be carrying out the road closures, and New Milford Parks and Recreation is helping with the planning and promotion of the event, as well as providing some of the items needed to run the event. Danbury’s HAO helps find sponsors, promotes the event and provides the volunteers to run the event.

The first event, which begins at 11 a.m., is limited to 28 teams, Cosgrove said. Registration is closed with the limit reached on July 12 with 100 bowlers registered in total.

The sport originated in the 1600s in Ireland and is still popular today in counties Cork and Armagh, according to the Ancient Order of Hibernians website.

Competitors will meet at the Abbey Restaurant to register between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. They will then be transported to the start line (starting from Sunny Valley Lane) by a hay ride from Rox Brook Farm. The route winds along Sunny Valley Road and ends just before Party Depot (175 Sunny Valley Road).

For security reasons, spectators will not be allowed along the course.

“The course will be blocked and we do not intend to allow spectators to view the event along the course,” Cosgrove said. “Having never done an event like this, we want to make sure everyone is safe. With around 2 pound cannonballs rolling around, we don’t want people getting hurt.

Potential future events could be open to the public, he said.

“In the future, that might be a possibility,” he said. “We encourage people to join us at The Abbey restaurant before and after to enjoy the festivities. We will have local legend Pat McGuire playing bagpipes, Mayor Pete Bass doing the ceremonial first bowl and an awards ceremony once all teams have completed the course.

There will be trophies for the first, second and third place teams. Everyone gets an event t-shirt. In case of bad weather, the rainy date for the event is August 6th.