Barbarians showcase NI wheelchair rugby

Published Tuesday, 18 February 2014
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The Ulster Barbarians are a local team of athletes proving wheelchair rugby is a fast, exciting sport that is not for the faint-hearted.

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Formed in April 2013 in association with Irish Wheelchair Rugby, Ulster Barbarians Wheelchair Rugby Club is the third such club on the island of Ireland, the only in Northern Ireland.

Before the Ulster team formed, players were travelling to Dublin every week to train.

In order to be eligible for the game a player needs to have an impairment in both their upper and lower limbs. So it tends to be those people with the more serious injuries who can't compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball that compete in wheelchair rugby.

But it's every bit as physically challenging, as player Deirdre Mangan explained.

"It is an unusual sport, it is great fun it may look tough but it actually isn't," she said.

"It is a great way to get aggression or stress out on court, there is great people I have met so many good friends by playing rugby and anyone who come along and play it will enjoy it as well."

The team consists of 10 members, some of whom also play for the national side. With four players on each team, the game play is very fast-paced.

"Before I played wheelchair rugby I wasn't doing that much for myself, but once you do it and see what other people are doing you want to do more yourself," Barbarians member Sean Smyth told UTV.

"You are able to talk to them about how to take your own life forward, it has got a lot of physiological as well as physical benefits."

While the game is called wheelchair rugby, there are some elements of American football with offensive and defensive players in each team. It is also played over four quarters and can last to anything up to an hour.

Brendan Rooney said: "It is rough, it is tough and as you can see these guys don't hold back. So it is a sport not for the faint-hearted."

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