A Sporting Guide to Belfast

mag3737 – Flickr

BY CONOR MCPARLAND

This summer’s Olympic Games have reignited the nation’s passion for sport, but here in Belfast, there is quality sport all year round. For the student who is more of a sporting spectator than a sporting participant there are plenty of opportunities to catch the latest Belfast talent.

The Ulster Rugby season at Ravenhill sees the giant men of Northern Ireland compete in the RaboDirect Pro 12 League, producing some of the finest displays of rugby you could wish to experience on an autumn Friday evening. Ulster enjoyed an enthralling campaign last season, reaching the final of Europe’s premier competition, the Heineken Cup, only to lose to Irish rivals Leinster, in the final at Twickenham. Major signings of former Ulster men Tommy Bowe and Roger Wilson are set to boost an already accomplished squad. International stars will continue to feature alongside home-grown talent, with Ireland’s Stephen Ferris and South Africa’s Ruan Pienaar amongst the headliners. Plans for a redevelopment of the Ravenhill ground are underway, with three new stands being built to accommodate a significant growth in club support. The electrifying atmosphere, bolstered by the infamous echo of ‘Stand Up for The Ulstermen’ will leave you will a sense of Belfast pride. Tickets start from £17 for a front row position on the terrace. For everything Ulster, www.ulsterrugby.com.

Belfast is represented in the UK Elite Ice Hockey League by the Belfast Giants, Ireland’s first professional ice hockey team since 2000. The Giants, who are the current Elit

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e League champions, play their home games at the Odyssey Arena. Large crowds of up to 4,000 people on Friday or Saturday nights can be expected. A fast, ferocious and highly captivating sport for spectators; this is a competitive arena worth watching. Prices start from £14 for a flexi ticket, purchased in advance this enables you to reinstate it for any game during the season. May the Giants entertain you at www.belfastgiants.com.

The home of the Northern Ireland football team is Belfast’s Windsor Park. Their latest campaign has recently begun under new manager Michael O’Neill, who will be seeking much needed progression from the squad. Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is well underway, with a tough qualifying group for the Green and White Army. Attempts to qualify will welcome the sporting prowess of Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo to Windsor Park in the near future. Prices start from £20, for more information visit www.irishfa.com.

Domestically, Northern Ireland boasts one of the oldest leagues in the world. Twelve teams compete in the Danske Bank Premiership, the top league in the country with every county represented. Linfield are the current title holders and share the famous ‘Big Two’ rivalry with their East Belfast foes, Glentoran. See www.ifapremiership.com for up and coming fixture lists.

Gaelic Football, the most popular spectator sport in Ireland is played at Casement Park in West Belfast, home of Antrim GAA. Its 32,000 capacity makes it the second-largest GAA ground in Ulster, www.antrimgaa.netfor further details.

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