Foot Golf is here
Fledgling sport attracts keen interest
Take golf and subtract the clubs, the golf balls and much of the aggravation. Keep the fresh air, the friendly competition and the post-round clubhouse banter.
What do you have? Foot Golf. Yes, there is such a thing, and it's taking off in Ireland.
Recognising Ireland's love of sport, Peter Bushe and Ed Sheehan from Kilanerin founded Fairway Football just outside Riverchapel, Courtown last summer on what used to be the Knockroe par three golf course. Their hard work has paid off as Foot Golf is now a recognised sport with a national governing body: the Irish Foot Golf Association.
Last week the I.F.G.A. announced that Fairway Football has been chosen to host a World Cup qualifier in the 'Race To Buenos Aires' this coming Saturday, July 11. Cathal Jenkinson, tournament director and current international player, described the venue as a 'brillant Foot Golf course with pristine surroundings and a proper challenge on 20 cracking holes. Anyone around the sunny south-east, get down to Rivechapel, Courtown and try it out'.
The 'World Cup Of Footgolf' takes place in Buenos Aires in January, 2016 and the lads at Fairway are hoping that one of their regular players might just make the Irish team.
The idea of kicking a soccer ball towards a target is nothing new, but organised Foot Golf started in Europe about six years ago and soon spread.
Some aspects of the game are similar to golf, starting with the basic rules: you begin by kicking from behind a tee marker and the number of kicks needed to reach the hole is your score on that hole. Foot Golf scores tend to be similar to golf scores, with pars of three to five per hole.
But in other ways, Foot Golf is different - and more approachable. It uses regular footballs, and players don't have to kick them 200 yards to send them halfway down the fairway. At Fairway Football, for example, tee-to-hole distances range from 45 to 200 yards. The course also offers exciting shots with players needing to decide whether or not to take on some of the hazards and slopes.
'The great thing about Fairway Football is that you don't need to have athletic ability,' Peter Bushe, a former Kilanerin Senior football captain, explained. 'Anybody who can kick a ball can play it. We have seen five-year-olds head out and play with their 75-year-old grandads (grandad nearly always wins), and stag and hen parties have brought along guests that never played football so it's great for everybody - children, dads, mams, aunts, uncles.
'We hear plenty of shouting and laughter throughout the day which normally means the players are having a blast and, unlike golf, you can take a turn with a nice cold beverage in your hand - at least theoretically!'
The more serious players will have their opportunity to compete in Fairway Football's first official I.F.G.A. tournament this Saturday as the competition is open to everyone.
The fact that Fairway Football has been selected as a qualifying venue for the upcoming World Cup in Buenos Aires is testament to the popularity and superb lay-out of the course, but also the quality of players who have taken up the sport in Wexford, Carlow and Wicklow. There is a real sense of excitement leading up to the event as players from all over the country will be making their way to Courtown on Saturday to compete against homegrown talent (the furthest competitors are coming from Mayo, Cork and Kerry).
To date there has been a great mix of local soccer, G.A.A. and rugby players getting to grips with the finer skills of the game. In fact, there is already much competition between clubs, and Colin O'Brien from local club Courtown Hibs recently knocked Eoin Kinsella from Gorey Rangers off the top of the Masters scoreboard by completing the course with an impressive 67 kicks.
Irish under-age soccer international Conor Levingstone, home on holiday after his superb performances in the Euros, has showcased his skills and Wexford hurling young guns Conor McDonald and Eoin Conroy have put the small ball away on a number of occasions and duelled in the sun.
Ed Sheehan, a member of the Wexford Minor hurling squad of 1992 and more accustomed to striking a sliothar, introduced Fairway hurling and on Friday nights they run a hugely popular competition which is open to all ages (including 'superstars' of the past!).
Naomh Eanna's Cian Browne and Cian 'Patsy' Molloy have so far led the charge, showing off some impressive skills as they navigate their way around the course.
A game at Fairway Football usually takes less than two hours and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Prices start at €7 for children. Football boots are allowed (but not for I.F.G.A. competitions - runners or astro-turf boots only), and footballs are supplied.
There is also a competition each evening - Monday to Friday at 7 p.m. - open to all who can kick a ball. Fairway hurling happens every Friday from 7.30 p.m. or by appointment.
Peter and Ed offer great group rates for teams, fundraisers, birthdays etc.
Facilities include a super-sized marquee together with clubhouse, ample car parking and outdoor seating for those who prefer to watch from the sidelines.
If you fancy your chances at qualifying to represent Ireland in Argentina next January or winning a prize in one of the categories (including the ladies' section), you can book your place at 087-7182381. Rules and regulations will be explained before the tournament.
Support for the local players would be really welcome, so if you want to spectate be sure to bring your samba beat to Riverchapel at 5.30 p.m. this Saturday, July 11.