Sports Events in Belfast
Down Royal Race Course
Down Royal Racecourse has brought the “Sport of Kings “ to generations in Ulster since the 17th Century and boasts some of the most modern facilities for racing fans. Located 10 miles south of Belfast, this premier racecourse presents 13 exciting, top-class horse races throughout the year, including the Bass Northern Ireland St Patrick's Day meeting, the Mirror May Day meeting, the Anglo Irish Bank Derby meeting, The Specsavers Ulster Derby meeting in June, and the internationally-acclaimed Northern Ireland Festival of Racing in November.
Belfast Giants Ice Hockey
It's fast, it's furious and it's still the hottest thing on ice! A fantastic night's entertainment and fun for all the family, ice hockey at the Odyssey Arena will have you jumpin' and hollerin' for more.
The Belfast Giants where formed in 2000 by businessman Bob Zeller when he put together a plan to start a hockey team in the UK. Belfast was his chosen location and this decision would make the Giants Ireland’s first professional ice hockey team.
The team which were named after the mythological Giant Finn McCool and his Giants causeway on the north coast of the island. They play out of the Odyssey Arena which is a multi-purpose arena built as part of the Odyssey complex that was Belfast’s millennium project. Although the arena sees a number of concerts, shows and other sporting events throughout the year it is the Giants who are the most frequent resident of the building and there is little doubt they have made the Odyssey arena their home.
Irish Football Association
Founded in the Queens Hotel, Belfast back on 18th November 1880 the Irish Football Association is the fourth oldest governing body in the world behind the other three home associations. It is the body which is used to promote, foster and develop the game throughout Northern Ireland at all levels. International football was organised soon after although a 13-0 defeat at the hands of England at the Knock Ground, Bloomfield in 1882 wasn't quite the start that might have been desired.
Thankfully performances have come a long way since then with three World Cup finals appearances to our credit and a series of legendary players being produced from the likes of Peter Doherty, Danny Blanchflower and Pat Jennings to, arguably, the greatest of them all, a certain George Best.
However, it is off the pitch that the Association has had its greatest impact. A member of the International Football Board - the rule-making body - the IFA sits as an equal with the other British associations and representatives of FIFA itself.
Indeed, the game has an Ulsterman to thank for one of the most important and pivotal developments - the humble penalty kick.
William McCrum, goalkeeper for Armagh club Milford FC, lobbied the IFA to proposed the introduction of the spot-kick in 1890. This was initially rejected in the belief that one player would not deliberately kick another!
Equally as important (and, it has to be said, controversial) in the modern game is the offside rule. Again this emanated from here, an idea proposed by Billy McCracken in 1920, an international star of the day.
A move to the current headquarters at Windsor Avenue followed in 1960, just a short walk from the hotel along with Windsor park where home internationals are played. Previously the association had been housed at premises on Waring Street and then Wellington Place. Their present home is an intrinsic part of the history of Belfast itself. The building is listed being a former residence of Thomas Andrews, designer of the world famous but ill-fated Titanic.
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded on November 1st 1884, by a group of spirited Irishmen who had the foresight to realise the importance of establishing a national organisation to revive and nurture traditional, indigenous pastimes.
Until that time all that was Irish was being steadily eroded by emigration, desperate poverty and outside influences. Within six months of that famous first meeting, clubs began to spring up all over Ireland and people began to play the games of Hurling and Gaelic Football and take part in Athletic events with pride. From 1925 the GAA handed over the organisation of Athletics to a separate organisation.
The GAA has over 2,500 clubs in Ireland alone. The playing of Gaelic Games is based on the GAA Club, and each of the 32 Counties in Ireland have their own Club competitions, culminating in County Winners in championship and league.
The County Board (and / or subsidiary boards) will organise competitions for the clubs within its jurisdiction. Within Antrim, Casement Park which is located several miles form the hotel in the county headquarters. It is here where a culmination of many competitions including both hurling and football games are played as well as the county team playing all home games.
Ulster Rugby participates in the Heineken Cup and the Magners League and provides the biggest regular supporter numbers for a true “sport for all” in Northern Ireland. Ulster Rugby, with its playing and administrative based at Ravenhill in Belfast, is the only sport running a full-time professional team based in Northern Ireland, with a full game development structure beneath it.
Harry Williams was Ulster's first coach in the professional era and presided over what is arguably the club's greatest acheivement when the side lifted the European Cup in January 1999, defeating French side Colomiers, 21 - 6 in the final which was played at Lansdowne Road.
Then Alan Solomons coached Ulster to a 3 year unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup and in the 2003-04 season Ulster finished second in very a closely contested Celtic League Championship. Without doubt two of his greatest moments with Ulster included the winning of the Celtic Cup on 20th December 2003, defeating Edinburgh 27 - 21 at Murrayfield, and less than a month later, defeating English Premiership giants Leicester
In May 2006 Ulster were crowned Celtic League champions. In a league season which saw the team win 14, lose 5 and draw 1 match, the competition went down to the wire and Ulster lifted the trophy after defeating The Ospreys 19 - 17 at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.
Tigers 33 - 0 in the Heineken Cup at Ravenhill.
On a local level, Belfast Harlequins who play out of the Grafton Arena, are located within a few minutes of the hotel, just off the Malone Road. The 2004 Ulster club of the year have an array of teams from under 16 right up to their first 15 who play in the AIB All Ireland League.