Ireland // Belfast //

Spectator sports


Though watching, discussing and betting on sport is as much of a pastime in Belfast as anywhere else, you’ll find very few locals expressing particularly passionate opinions about the city’s teams and players, with the notable exception of boxing. Indeed, when people watch sport here, it’s usually the televised variety, and attendances for most events are relatively small, an indifference that applies equally to the North’s national teams. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in attending a match of whatever kind, there are plenty of opportunities, and the Belfast Telegraph usually has the details.

The Northern Ireland football (soccer) team has enjoyed little success on the international stage over the last twenty years, but lit a blaze of glory in the summer of 2005 when it defeated England 1–0 in Belfast, reignited by a 3–2 victory over Spain the following year. Internationals are played at Windsor Park (the home ground of the Linfield club) near the Lisburn Road (buses #9A and #9B to Lower Windsor Avenue). The biggest club sides in Belfast – paradoxically enough – are Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers, generally supported respectively by Catholics and Protestants, as well as Liverpool and Manchester United.

Since football is the Belfast sport, success at either hurling or Gaelic football has been lacking, and County Antrim (which in this case includes Belfast for sporting purposes) has never won either All-Ireland Senior Final. You can see both sports most weekends at Roger Casement Park, on Andersonstown Road (buses #10A, #10B, #10C and #10D).

The provincial rugby-union team, Ulster, plays its games at the Ravenhill Grounds, Ravenhill Park (bus #78), and features in both the Celtic League and the Heineken Cup. Perhaps the most popularly attended matches are the ice-hockey games at the Odyssey Arena, featuring the Belfast Giants.

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