‘EVEN though we are only a cog in a big wheel, when everybody rows the boat together, it enhances all our lives.’
Those were the words of James O’Driscoll, at the launch of his innovative game ScoreBowls, and explain, in some ways, the thinking behind the concept. A career as a psychiatric nurse had awakened a desire to better the sense of participation and inclusion of those in care settings and now, almost a decade on from tentative beginnings and with help and guidance from a great many people, his unique project comes to fruition.
James was the recipient of many plaudits at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí for the tenacity and perseverance he applied to what was described as a practical and compassionate enterprise. Jim Daly TD, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, who performed the launch, probably best summed the considerate nature of his fellow Drinagh man with the words, ‘James sees not disabilities in people, but only abilities.’
It was an auspicious occasion, attended by the Mayor of Cork County Declan Hurley, Cllr Mary Hegarty (Bantry), Claire Hurley of Cork Sports Partnership, representatives and members of many bowling clubs, Ból Chumann personnel and family, friends and well-wishers from throughout West Cork.
ScoreBowls was tried and tested in Coláiste Pobail’s spacious hall and was given a unanimous thumbs-up by trialists from far and wide. It has, of course, been in operation in various centres around the country as prototypes were developed and improved upon.
In his address, James O’Driscoll expanded on his theme of inclusivity.
‘It is enlightening to see all governing sports bodies including people of all abilities’ he said.
Score Bowls is designed for player participation in care settings after several years of development and extensive trials with real users. As many as 5,000 games have been played, using five different prototypes over a ten-year period. These have taken place at centres as diverse as Thurles Sarsfields GAA pavilion and Eyries Hall.
Product improvement has been ongoing through the years – for instance, ScoreBowls is now 1200mm in width and made of PVC, as distinct from the original model, which was two metres wide and made of steel.
James mentioned the help he received from many sources not least his family members. Pat Cronin of Cronin Engineering was there at the beginning and the late Vince Cullinane worked with the electronics.
He said, ‘Going into various care centres has been a hugely gratifying experience when you see the enjoyment and excitement people get from the game.’
Claire Hurley, Cork Sports Partnership said it was a hugely positive development from their perspective and would be much utilised in its Sports Ability programmes.