BY KIERAN McCARTHY
THE first time Noel Magnier saw the great bowler Mick Barry in action was in Dublin Hill in 1955, and it left a lasting impression on him.
It was one of those rare days when Barry lost, against Denis Ger O’Donovan, but the late Waterfall man’s skill, athleticism, power and bowling ability needed to be seen to be believed, says Magnier, whose new book, Mick Barry: The Bowl Player of All Time, charts the amazing career of the sport’s greatest player.
‘This is a sporting book that tells the story of the bowl player who has hero status within the sport and beyond,’ explained Magnier.
‘When I was a young man my hero was Mick Barry. If Barry was playing, I’d travel to wherever he was playing; he had thousands of followers.’
Barry passed away in December 2014, just a few weeks short of his 96th birthday, but his legend will live on forever because he was the greatest bowl player of all time, and that’s perfectly captured in Magnier’s enjoyable new book, designed and published by Star Creative, the publishing department of The Southern Star.
‘Writing this book came very naturally because Mick is such a good subject. He is acknowledged as the greatest bowl player of all-time, and it was Flor Crowley, the Dunmanway man who was chairman of Bol Chumann, who said that of Mick. That’s where I got the title for the book, Mick Barry: The Bowl Player of All Time,’ explained Magnier, a former Bol Chumann officer.
‘Every sport has its sporting heroes or heroines, and Mick Barry was the best bowler the sport has ever seen. His record is there to prove that and it will stand the test of time.
‘Reporters from outside the sport knew of Barry and wrote very highly of him. The Armagh Observer wrote on August 12th, 1967, “Fantastic, unbelievable, invincible. Mick Barry is an artist, an actor who draws forth applause even from the most unwilling spectators.’
‘For The Cork Examiner, TP O’Mahony wrote “if bowl playing or road bowling was ever elevated to Olympic status, then the name of Mick Barry would read alongside the likes of Carl Lewis and Al Oerter, such has been his dominance of the sport. His name is as revered among bowling folk as that of Ring, Best and Coyle in the worlds of hurling, soccer and rugby”.’
Barry was a bowler without equal, and from 1962 to ’75 he was crowned Munster champion in all but three years, and some of his feats are the stuff of legend; he lofted Mary Anne’s pub in Dublin, he put a 16 oz bowl over the Chetwynd Viaduct, and he was fittingly named Supreme Bowler of the Millennium in 1999 by Bol Chumann.
Magnier considers himself one of the lucky few who had a front-row seat to watch Barry in action.
‘I remember asking Mick Barry one time for a few hints about how to improve my bowl playing. He looked at me and he was very sincere in what he said, “I think bowl players are born, not raised”. That was typical of Barry, he was very single-minded and he was rightly confident in his own ability. For decades, he was always the man to beat,’ Magnier.
‘In 1969 he was on the first Irish international team that travelled to Holland. He was lauded overseas for his talent as he actually beat the Dutch and the Germans at their own form of the sport – his versatility was vast. I brought a good bit of balance to the book, too, and there is appropriate credit given to the players who played Mick Barry. He wasn’t totally invincible because he was beaten, but only occasionally.’
Magnier adds that he is delighted that The Southern Star designed and published this must-read book for all sports fans.
‘The Southern Star has chronicled Mick Barry’s career for years and years. Mick Crowley, late chairman of Bol Chumann, wrote for The Southern Star so it’s very fitting that The Southern Star is part of this journey as well,’ Magnier added.
To order a copy of the book, for €25, click here southernstar.ie/shop
Also you can ring The Southern Star office (028-21200) or you can call into The Southern Star office in Skibbereen to pick up a copy.