Cork Roadbowling: Carmel Carey bows out on top with 11 All-Irelands

'I’ve been going since 1994 and I think I have done my bit'
Cork Roadbowling: Carmel Carey bows out on top with 11 All-Irelands

Carmel Carey from Carrigtwohill, winner of a record-breaking 11 Munster Senior Ladies' road bowling titles, recently announced her retirement. Picture: David Keane. 

IT wasn’t to be... the dream finale to Carmel Carey’s glittering career.

Last weekend, the key battle in the opening score of the delayed 2020 All-Ireland final series of roadbowling went the way of her talented opponent Kelly Mallon.

It was to be Carey’s final outing before she retired from the sport she loves and while she didn’t quite get the ‘icing on the cake’ in the form of a fifth national title, she can still reflect proudly on her enormous achievements.

“I was probably more relaxed going into the weekend than I ever was before an All Ireland,” she said. “I think because I was thinking ‘this is the end and whatever happens, happens.’

“It was the Munsters I had been focusing on all along, trying to get as many as I could so I could break the record so an All Ireland win would’ve been a bonus.

“There was good support for me up there. My coach and husband Tony travelled with me and Nicholas who I have been training with down through the years, his partner and his child who is four came as well. She is my newest supporter!

“It’s like we are a three-person team, Tony, Nicholas, and myself. I hadn’t been thinking about what it would mean to me if I won because I was just concentrating on bowling but I knew it would mean I was going out on a high.

“But it’s hard enough to get to an All-Ireland so to have just won four is just absolutely brilliant.”

It was a career that started back in 1994 when she was just 16 years of age. The proximity of her family home to the road used for bowling in Carrigtwohill meant it was a sport she was always going to get involved in.

“The local road in Carrigtwohill was just 200 metres away from my home,” she adds.

“I could just hear all this shouting and it was the locals going bowling. My father and brothers had got into it as well so I just wanted to see what was happening.

“My oldest brother... I used to practice with him, he would be throwing scores like and he needed to practice beforehand so I would go out with him then.

I actually used to throw underarm, like the northern style, but he said if I wanted to go into championship I had to practice the proper way. 

"I didn’t play well at first but with plenty of practice really is how I got my career going, I practiced all the time.

“My husband Tony is into bowling so he took over my management later on and since then I have been bowling. That’s all I’ve ever done; bowling. That was my sport.”

Carmel Carey in action. Picture: David Keane.
Carmel Carey in action. Picture: David Keane.

Success would quickly follow although it wasn’t until 2012 that her career reached its pinnacle when she participated in the European Championships in Italy.

There she set a new World and European record by throwing 10 shots a total of 1,796.2 metres as well as a single shot record of 321.2 metres.

But there was always one significant target she had in mind. Having lost to 10 times Munster champion Gretha Cormican back in 1997, her aim soon became to winning a record number of 11 titles.

It was a dream that became a reality just a couple of weeks ago.

“It was my mission to beat her record,” she enthuses. 

This year I got my 11th Munster title so I now have the record. I also found out recently that Mick Barry - the famous bowler - also had 10 Munsters so I surpassed him as well."

It was after that triumph that she knew it was the right time to retire Was she not tempted to stay on and win number 12?

“No!” she insists. “I’m 43 years of age and I’m competing against bowlers from 24 to 30 years of age and there’s a big difference. I’ve been going since 1994 and I think I have done my bit and now it’s time to let the younger girls come up… I’ve set a record so let’s see if they can beat it.”

But even if she’s not playing, it will always be a sport she loves and she will continue to be involved in, even if it is in a different capacity.

“I mightn’t go out as much but I’ll definitely still go out. Do you know what? It will probably be more fun cause there won’t be the pressure on me to perform well, I can just enjoy it.”

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