Ireland take Celtic Challenge honours
The 2023 Celtic Challenge, hosted by the Irish Petanque Association, took place over two days at the end of April with the Irish team led by a Cavan man emerging victorious.
The event, at Pickie Bowling Club in Bangor (April 29/30), took place despite inclement weather including thunder and lightning on Sunday afternoon that caused parts of the piste to flood and halt play for a period.
Nonetheless, Chef d’equipe and Captain of the Irish team Billy Gleadell from Belturbet rallied his side and helped lead them to impressive and historic victories over rivals Scotland and Wales.
Ireland had last won the trophy in 2006. The Ireland A squad finished the event with a total of 34 wins, while Scotland were runners-up with 27 wins, and Wales third (20).
The Irish B team also won 15 games over the weekend- including 12 against Scotland and Wales. Among them were Belturbet players Jeremy Simpson, Carina and Robbie Beretton and Mr Gleadell himself.
Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Councillor Karen Douglas attended the event, and opened proceedings by throwing a ceremonial boule with the presidents of each association- Mr Gleadell (Ireland), Alison Swiffin (Scotland), Tony Smith (Wales), and Kevin McBrien of the North Down Petanque Club.
Traditionally pétanque has been concentrated in Down, Dublin and Cork, however the game is now burgeoning with new clubs forming in Cavan, Waterford and Sligo.
Mr Gleadell says it was a huge honour to lead the Irish team to its first Celtic Challenge win in almost two decades.
“To be there, and to lead the side, with so many talented players, it was a huge honour. It’s was really wonderful and I strongly believe that it will do a lot for promoting the sport even more right across Ireland,” says Mr Gleadell.
Ireland will defend their title when the Celtic Challenge moves to Wales in 2024.