Most people know bowling as a fun game that is perfect for a day out with your family, date night with your other half, or a bit of craic with the lads or the girls.
What a lot of people are not aware of is the competitive scene in Irish bowling. Every January, the Irish Open Tenpin Bowling Championships takes place in Leisureplex Stillorgan, and this year sees the 32nd year of the event run from January 12th to 19th.
The event will see just shy of 200 bowlers, from all over the world, descend on Dublin to compete for the €20,000 prize fund, and a European Bowling Tour title. The champion will walk away with the trophy and the €4,000 cash prize!
So now you know that the Irish Open exists, and how big of an event it is, time to fill you in on how it all works.
The tournament is run with a re-entry format, allowing bowlers to play as many qualifying squads as they wish. Each squad sees bowlers play 6 games, and at the end of qualifying a bowler can use their best 6-game score as their qualifying total. There are 15 qualifying squads in total, running from Sunday January 12th right through until Saturday afternoon, January 18th.
After these qualifying squads are completed, 62 bowlers, selected from 5 varying qualifying sections, qualify for the Final Steps, which start on Saturday evening, January 18th. The players at the very top of the qualifying standings receive either one or two byes at the start of the qualifying rounds, so the better you can do in qualifying, the easier your path to the title should be, in theory.
However, the Final Steps are a minefield, with bowlers having to play so many games that it really comes down to endurance and mental toughness as Finals Day unfolds on Sunday January 19th. By the time Sunday afternoon comes along, the field will be cut to 16 bowlers, who will then compete in knockout matchplay rounds until a champion is crowned.
What really makes the Irish Open special, however, is the atmosphere. A large portion of the bowlers and spectators who make the trip have been coming to the tournament for 15, 20 or even 30 years, and you can really feel that in the centre during the week, especially on the final weekend, when all the competitors and spectators have arrived and the place is packed full of rowdy bowling fans! Unlike some other indoor sports like snooker, a loud atmosphere is relatively encouraged in bowling, and if the standard of play is at a high level the buzz in the centre can be infectious.
Honestly, if you have never experienced a big bowling tournament in person, get down to Leisureplex Stillorgan this week! It may not seem like it on the surface, but bowling is far more than just a bit of craic with family and friends. For this week at least, competitive bowling comes alive in Dublin! Make sure you don’t miss out!
Spectators are welcome and encouraged to attend any time throughout the week, with no entry fee for spectators or customers. Drop in to the centre any time between 8am and midnight to catch some of the action, and while bowling will not be available to customers during the tournament, our other activities, including Quasar, pool, arcade games and kids play centre, as well as our 11th Pin Diner, are all still open and available. Make a day or night of it and see some world class bowling while you’re at it!