Chloe Wilson feels Team NI can bowl them over at Commonwealth Games

Chloe Wilson was playing for Ireland U25s having just entered her teenage years, now the Portadown lawn bowler will make her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham on the greens in less than three weeks.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Monday, 11th July 2022, 6:00 am

The 20-year-old nursing student forms part of a strong Team NI squad which has seven Commonwealth Games debutants including all five bowlers in the Ladies team.

“It is unbelievable, I never thought I get such an opportunity at such a young age,” enthused Wilson.

“Just to get an experience like this is unbelievable and I can’t put it into words.”

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Portadown lawn bowler Chloe Wilson

The packed stands at the Leamington Spa venue for the lawn bowls during Commonwealth Games will be a far cry from where Wilson’s bowling journey began.

“I started short mat bowls with the church from when I was about six or seven,” she explained.

“So short mat was a big thing for me for about five or six years and then I was invited to a bowls camp in Lurgan, I think the first year I went I was 12.

“The next year I got a trial for Ireland U25s and made the team and got my first cap over at Greenock in Scotland, so it was a bit of a whirlwind.

“We were such a young team, all of us were very young, we have all sort of built on from that.

“A few years after I started there was a big surge of younger ones coming in.

“It was nice to work with younger ones and just to be able to put on that shirt and such a young age was unbelievable.

“Short mat bowls we just play in a hall and there is a stick in the middle, and it is not as long either so that is the big difference.

“Outdoor bowls is played on grass or sometimes carpet but at home it is mostly on grass.”

Wilson was a keen hockey player as well but when it came to choosing between that and bowls there was only going to be one winner.

“I played hockey in junior high school when I was at Killicomaine,” she explained.

“I played there for three years then I went to Portadown College to do my GCSEs and I played hocky there as well.

“With bowls it came to the stage where you had to pick between one or the other because you don’t have time to pick between both so I just picked bowls.

“I didn’t play any other sports apart from bowls at Banbridge High.”

Wilson has taken a sabbatical from her studies in England to give herself the best chance of success at the Commonwealth Games.

“It was a bit intense there for a while, I have taken a leave of absence at the moment just to come home because I wasn’t going to be able to get enough practice or put in the amount of effort that is needed to go over and play in Birmingham,” she said.

“I came home just after Easter to focus on outdoor and hopefully I’ll be going back in January to finish my semester two.”

Wilson still gets banter from her friends about the stereotypes surrounding bowls.

“To be honest they sort of do just take the mick saying that it is only old people that play that,” she said.

“Out of all my friends that I went to school with that sort of played bowls and they would be like ‘oh are you going to play that again’.

“As I started to play at a higher level they were like oh it is a sport that you can move up in, I was like if you just play consistently and play well you have that opportunity to move up the ranks.

“One of my mates I’m like look at me now because she played volleyball and she was up there with Northern Ireland for a while then she took a step back when she went to university so I sort of joke with her that I play at a higher level.”

While it is a first Commonwealth Games for Wilson she has been tapping into the knowledge of Martin McHugh who will be going to his seventh games and Ian McClure, embarking on his sixth, both were gold medal winners in 1998.

“Because I’m there at such a young age I’m hoping I’ll still be there and be able to play as long as Marty and even Ian as well, they have been there so long and are still playing so well,” she said.

“I can’t put into words how much I look up to them as well and have that bit of experience.

“If you need help with anything they are always there for you as well, so we are lucky to have them on our team.”

Wilson is hoping to embrace the whole atmosphere of the occasion.

“Just the whole experience, I think the opening ceremony is something I’m looking forward to just to have everyone together and to experience it all, especially for us five (the Ladies team) plus Sam (Barkley) and Adam (McKeown) as well, because we have never been there so to experience it all together is just amazing,” she said.

Wilson is hoping all the training the team has put in can lead to a podium finish.

“We have put in the effort and all the preparation that we have done before is going to show on the green and hopefully we’ll be able to bring back some medals,” she said. “I can’t see why we can’t, but time will tell.”