Irish Road Bowling Event Held by Wheeling’s Ancient Order of Hibernians

WHEELING—The Wheeling AOH Division 1 hosted another successful “World’s Largest” Irish Road Bowling event on Sept. 25, 2021 at Wheeling Park’s Sonneborn Shelter. West Virginia’s only remaining chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians hosted the event, which drew nearly 650 participants to compete for the “McSweeney Cup.” The cup is named for the Division’s Chaplain, Father Jeremiah McSweeney, a long serving West Virginia parish priest originally from County Cork, Ireland. “The event is a real ‘craic,’” noted Hibernian Larry Freeland, whose nephew, Conor Freeland and bandmates, “Bealtaine” provided the Irish music for the event. Participants roll a steel ball along a 1.5-mile course, trying to finish with the fewest number of throws. “It is the division’s largest fundraising event,”noted Tom Connelly, division president. Proceeds from the event are used to support many local charities and non-profits throughout the year, including supporting Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center in Wheeling, three $1,000 college scholarships the division awards to high school students in the Ohio Valley, and grants to local Catholic school teachers for school supplies. “The division appreciates the support from the Ohio County Commission as well as the permission from the West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Highways to use the road that afternoon,” added Hibernian Craig O’Leary, event organizer The Ancient Order of Hibernians is the nation’s oldest and largest Irish-American organization. Previously, there were multiple divisions in Wheeling and across the state. Wheeling resident, Jack Fahey re-established the Order in Wheeling in 2006 when the national organization approved the application after securing the required number of new members, many from the large Fahey and McCormick clans. Prior to that, Fahey had been attending meetings across the Ohio River in Belmont County, Ohio. The Wheeling Division currently includes 80 members from parishes in Ohio and Marshall counties in West Virginia and Belmont County, Ohio. In addition to hosting the World’s Largest Road Bowling event, the division also marches in the annual St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh, and hosts many other social fundraising events throughout the year. Membership is open to practicing Catholic men over 18 years of age that can claim Irish heritage by birth or descent. Anyone interested in learning more about the organization is invited to visit, the Wheeling Division Facebook page at or read Freedom for All Ireland Officer Seán Duffy’s “Whelan’s Irish Guard The Ancient Order of Hibernians in Wheeling” available online at the Ohio County Public Library’s website. The Division encourages all to mark their calendars for next year’s event on Sept. 24, 2022.

Wheeling Hibernians march in the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade.