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Northern Ireland Table Football History

Subbuteo Table Soccer was popular in Northern Ireland in the 1970s & 1980s, when we were part of the United Kingdom Subbuteo Association. Our National Championships were sponsored by Subbuteo headquarters and the winners represented Northern Ireland at British, European & World level. The main clubs were run by Laurence Cummings in Rathcoole, Davy Clegg in North Down, Kenny Beggs in Ballyclare and Jim Fleming in Belfast. Rathcoole produced the best players in those days, with Jim Skelly reaching the 1982 World Cup semi-finals and Keith Greene becoming UK Champion in 1984, with his club-mate Brian Cairns being runner-up. In the 1990s, clubs were formed in Dunmurry (Simon Stewart, Barry Spence), Bangor (Eoin Adams), Comber (James Lappin) and Strabane (Cahill McGirr). These clubs ran a series of Regional Opens, co-ordinated by National Organiser, Neil Hanna and dominated by Rathcoole's Trevor Cummings.

With the formation of FISTF (The Federation of International Sports Table Football) in the early nineties, the sport had a more global aspect and several of our members played in foreign open events. In 1993 & 1994 we hosted two FISTF International Opens in Bangor which attracted top players from UK & Ireland, mainland Europe & even Australia. In 1996, Davy Clegg organised a Northern Ireland Premier League and National Championships in Donaghadee, leading to qualification for the 1996 European Championships at Wembley where Kenny Beggs reached the Quarter-Final and Bangor's Gary Smyth was the junior representative.

There was a lull and then a revival when Simon Stewart, Barry Spence & Kenny Beggs entered the 2002 FISTF World Cup in Birmingham. On their return home, they formed NITFA and organised a National League and Open Events in Belfast. As the player base grew, the National League was replaced by clubs. Belfast Barbarians Subbuteo Club was formed by Barry Spence and Davy Clegg's North Down Subbuteo League was revived after years of dormancy. New clubs were developed in Ballyclare by John Barrons and Bangor by Brian Moore and there was a renewed interest in players travelling to overseas FISTF events. From 2004-2008, Northern Ireland participated in the UK & Ireland Internationals, a new annual event which signified the general growth of the sport in the home nations. We were represented at the 2005 World Cup in Belgium by Kenny Beggs, Trevor Cummings and Donal Convery.

The 2005 Belfast International Grand Prix was held in W5,Odyssey. With 64 entrants from UK, Ireland and mainland Europe, it was the biggest ever Subbuteo Tournament in Northern Ireland. We continued to host FISTF events for the next few years - 2006 Belfast GP, 2007 Belfast International Open, 2008 Belfast GP & IO, 2009 Belfast IO and 2010 Belfast IO at various venues. We also hosted the 2007 UK & Ireland Internationals in Park Avenue Hotel, which was a success in both organising and performance terms, with Northern Ireland finishing 2nd.

From 2009-2014, the two Irish Associations NITFA and TFAI jointly organised the Irish Circuit, with Open Events north and south of the border contributing to the overall circuit table. The Northern Ireland Championships was superceded by the All Ireland Championships in 2009, to be held in alternate years North & South and still continues to the present day.

In 2012, NITFA became affiliated to the World Amateur Subbuteo Players Association (WASPA), headed by former FISTF President, Vincent Coppenolle. The Dunmurry Open in Beechlawn House Hotel was the first of many Northern Irish events to be played under the WASPA banner.

In 2016, Martinog Bradley and Lawrence Watson formed Derry City Table Football Club and started organising monthly WASPA tournaments in addition to a local League. The events attracted players from Derry, Donegal, Strabane, Cookstown, Belfast & Ballyclare, sparking another revival of the game here and the resurrection of the Irish Circuit. Thanks to Martinog's promotional and video skills, the club has a huge Facebook following, with live streaming of events for the world to watch on. Connections have been made with Wolverhampton, Glasgow & London Road (Wales), which resulted in an annual invitational event between the four clubs. The Derry Leg was in 2018, consisting of an Individual Event and a Team Event. Trophies were presented by Micky Bradley of the Undertones..

Following the Covid-induced break from 2020-2021, Derry went on to host successful FISTF International Opens in 2022 and 2023 at the Nerve Centre.

Northern Ireland were back in World Cup action in Rome 2022, represented by Simon Stewart, Martinog Bradley, Lawrence Watson, Eoin Adams and Craig Stewart.