By Niamh Ennis
Although quidditch was founded more than a decade ago, the sport has been around in Ireland for considerably less time. NUI Galway University, who sent the Galway Grindylows to the inaugural British Quidditch Cup in 2013, and some of the Dublin universities and IT colleges are responsible for getting the ball rolling in the Republic of Ireland. Nowadays, the Dublin Draíochta Dragons and Queen’s University Belfast Quidditch Club (QUBQC) are continuing the story as the only two active teams in the Emerald Isle. Although Ireland had a national team at last year’s World Cup and at the 2015 European Games, these versions of the national team were largely comprised of players from the UK with Irish heritage. Ahead of European Games 2017 in Oslo, Norway this July, players in the Republic and Northern Ireland are coming together to create an all-Ireland national team with Quidditch Ireland being set up to get Team Ireland ready for Oslo.
One of the largest of the regional teams involved in this is the aforementioned Queen’s University Belfast Quidditch Club. The Northern Irish team, led by Conor Ardill, only came together in the second half of last year but are already set for their first UK tournament this weekend in Manchester. The team was formed around the historic Belfast University in September when Ardill decided it was about time the sport started in Northern Ireland. Ardill had previously played for the Manchester Manticores at the University of Manchester’s mini-tournament Cottonopolis and was taken by the sport. Despite its youth, the team has grown not only in size but in coordination, communication, and team spirit.
Going From Strength to Strength
Since the formation of the club via Queen’s University, QUBQC has been training weekly. After trainings, the team has a unique tradition as they line up and try to kick the quaffle through the hoop. The best shot gets a free pint at the customary after-training social. The team has mixed well both from a social and an athletic standpoint.
Queen’s In the North
The Belfast team made their first entry into competitive quidditch with a friendly against the Dublin Draíochta Dragons, another up-and-coming team, in November 2016. The meeting consisted of three games, two matches between the teams and a mixed game where the near strangers joined forces. The first game was tight; however, Belfast ultimately came out on the losing end, with a 70*-50 defeat courtesy of a Dublin snitch catch. The second game was a bit more one-sided with the Dragons pulling 110 points ahead before the Belfast seeker made a successful cold catch to end the game 130-50*.
This weekend, Belfast will head to mainland UK for Cottonopolis III with a roster of 20 and two extras who can referee. They will be playing a fairly equally-matched Liverpuddly Cannons and two-time tournament champions Chester Centurions. Ardill believes that Cottonopolis will be a good chance for players to learn from each other and other teams so that they can improve as players. It is also an opportunity to show mainland UK that Northern Ireland has what it takes to make it on the quidditch main stage and to give them a few surprises and show the rest of the UK what they’re building in Ireland.