Sunday 19 November 2017

Skittles final is a pelter

Jake Hickey from Hacketstown Co Carlow throws the skittle during the U16 final.
Jake Hickey from Hacketstown Co Carlow throws the skittle during the U16 final. sportsdesk

The sport of skittles is certainly one of the less-well-known pastimes in Ireland, but for the Lyons family of Hacketstown in Carlow, it's been the central theme in the latest chapter of their relationship with the Community Games movement.

Liam and Eileen Lyons have been at the heart of Community Games activity in Carlow for over 40 years and, when skittles was added to the games eight years ago, Liam felt that this would be an ideal opportunity to get some children involved that might otherwise feel that the community games is not for them.

"When it was introduced into Community Games, I decided to look for a few kids that weren't really active into Gaelic football or soccer or anything like that. We got some that weren't into any physical sport and it suits everyone."

Eileen explained how for a child with a disability, perhaps one confined to a wheelchair, could still be part of this very simple sport, where five trapezoid-shaped wooden "standers" are set up in a circle, with different scores for each one. Competitors, in mixed teams of six, then throw wooden pegs or 'pelters', around a foot in length and four or five inches in diameter, scoring points for the skittles that they knock out of the painted circle from a distance of approximately eight metres.

Led by Liam, they've set up quite the dynasty in Hacketstown and their dominance continued this year, with gold medals at under-16 and under-14, and a bronze medal at under-12.

"There'd be about four areas in the county of Carlow playing skittles but we've dominated for the last few years and then we always came up against Wexford, who dominated Leinster for a long time. But we got to break a few years ago and we're on top at the minute."

Hacketstown beat Magheracloone of Monaghan in the final of the U16 competition and one of the participants was Ciara Lyons, granddaughter of Eileen and Liam.

"I was so nervous, I didn't think we were going to win," Ciara said afterwards. "But in the final round everybody got their ten-point skittle at the very least and that's what we needed to do to win. We did well under pressure!" she beamed.

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