Ulster - Sport

Sport

In Gaelic games (which include Gaelic football and hurling), Ulster counties play the Ulster Senior Football Championship and Ulster Senior Hurling Championship. In football, the main competitions in which they compete with the other Irish counties are the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and National Football League, while the Ulster club champions represent the province in the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship. Hurling teams play in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, National Hurling League and All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship. The whole province fields a team to play the other provinces in the Railway Cup in both football and hurling. Gaelic Football is by far the most popular of the GAA sports in Ulster but hurling is also played, especially in Antrim, Armagh, Derry, and Down.

The border has divided association football teams since 1921. The Irish Football Association (the I.F.A.) oversees the sport in N.I., while the Football Association of Ireland (the F.A.I.) oversees the sport in the Republic. As a result, separate international teams are fielded and separate championships take place (Irish Football League in Northern Ireland, League of Ireland in the rest of Ulster and Ireland). Anomalously, Derry City F.C. has played in the League of Ireland since 1985 due to crowd trouble at some of their Irish League matches prior to this. The other major Ulster team in the League of Ireland is Finn Harps of Ballybofey, County Donegal. When Derry City F.C. and Finn Harps play against each other, the game is usually referred to as a 'North-West Derby'. There have been cup competitions between I.F.A. and F.A.I. clubs, most recently the Setanta Sports Cup.

In Rugby union, the professional rugby team representing the province and the IRFU Ulster Branch, Ulster Rugby, compete in the RaboDirect PRO12 along with teams from Wales, Scotland, Italy and the other Irish Provinces (Leinster, Munster and Connacht). They also compete in Europe's main club rugby tournament, the Heineken Cup, which they won back in 1999. Notable Ulster rugby players include Willy John McBride, Jack Kyle and Mike Gibson. The former is the most capped British and Irish Lion of all time, having completed four tours with the Lions in the sixties and seventies.

Cricket is also played in Ulster, especially in Northern Ireland and East Donegal. The game is mainly played and followed by members of the Protestant community.

Golf is however by far the most high profile sport and the sport that Ulster has succeeded at more than any other. Ulster has produced many great players over the years, from Fred Daly winning The Open Champiionship in 1947 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake to most recently Rory McIlroy winning the US Open and Darren Clarke winning The Open Championship in 2011. Ulster also has another Major winner in Graeme McDowell who also won the US Open in 2010.

In Horse racing, specifically National Hunt Ulster has produced the most domnant jockey of all time Tony McCoy.

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