Learn bridge this October with Mullingar Bridge Club

Learn bridge this October with Mullingar Bridge Club

Bridge has always been popular in Westmeath, being played in houses and different venues until the mid-60s, when the Lake Bridge Club was set up. It has grown tenfold and there are now four bridge clubs in Mullingar – three in the Bridge And Amenity Centre and one in the golf club. There are also clubs in Killucan, Moate, Castlepollard and Athlone.

What is bridge?

Bridge is a card game played with four people (two sets of partners) . The 52 cards are dealt out equally among the four players and the aim of the game is to see which pair can get the most cards. It would take a long article to explain the ins and outs or bridge; all I know is that 85-90% of people that start playing love it and continue to play.

For some it’s the challenge of winning a contract and the different strategies you use to do so. Others play to reach a high level of expertise and to compete at regional and national level, and some, like Thomas Hanlon, compete on internationally.

A native of Rochfortbridge, Thomas played his first game of bridge in Mullingar Bridge Centre with his mother Annie Hanlon, a long serving member of the club.

Another well known player is Michael McDonagh, who has represented Ireland at major bridge competitions and still plays on occasion at the Lake Club and mentors players in the Mullingar area.

The majority of members come in to play bridge for a social night out. While playing they can enjoy tea or coffee and a snack or a pint or glass of wine from the bar in the Bridge Centre.

Bridge is social. Bridge is a bargain. Bridge is fun. Bridge can be a lifelong pursuit. Bridge stimulates the brain. Bridge can improve your physical health.

Don’t take my word for it, read the testimonials below of two experienced players, Bernadette Solon and Sean Galligan.

Bridge classes

We are starting bridge classes for beginners in the Bridge and Amenity Centre on Tuesday October 1. Classes are given by experienced player and teacher, Maura Hogan.

A block of 10 lessons costs €50; contact: Eamonn 086 4449078 or Sean 087 4160724.

We will also host hour-long classes followed by two hours of relaxed game play for improvers and advanced players on Thursdays at 10am in the Bridge Centre, given by Sean Galligan, at €5 a lesson. (Sean’s number is above.)

Testimonial by Bernadette Solon

As a child growing up in Dublin, card play wasn’t something I witnessed except in our home at Christmas when we went into the ‘good sitting room’, lit the fire and every evening played some kind of board or card game. We played Memory, Snap, Old Maid, Sevens, and Rummy. My Dad’s favourite game was Solo and when I was old enough to understand it, he taught it to me and so began my love of card play.

I had heard about bridge and the bridge club through friends and when bridge lessons were available in the ‘Technical School’, a friend and I decided to give it a go. Maura Hogan was our teacher and from lesson one we were hooked! Every week we had a lesson and at the end played some hands that were set up as practice, the system still used by all of our teachers. On finishing the classes Maura invited the group to the Bridge Centre to play with the members of the Ennell Club (Mondays 7.30-10.30pm). I was terrified to begin to play with the ‘experts’ but my fear was quickly dispelled, and I found the members welcoming and patient with us newbies.

If you like card play, bridge is probably one of the more exciting games as it poses challenges with every hand. One is constantly learning as every hand is different and the play in turn is different. I have met people whom I would never meet socially and I am delighted and honoured to be able to call them friends. An evening’s play costs a few euro, which goes to the upkeep of the clubhouse and is given back as prizes.

I have played bridge in various countries while on holiday; all you need is three others who know the basic rules. So, rather than sitting at home, watching TV, this October come along and take lessons and who knows, like me, you might get hooked! The Bridge Club looks forward to welcoming you.

Testimonial by Sean Galligan

It’s been said that Bridge is a game for life. I (and a lot of the people I regularly play against) am probably living proof of this, as I learned to play in 1979 and here I am, 40 years later, spending anything from two to four nights a week at the card table.

I was introduced to the game by a friend, while working in Dublin for the summer. My earliest memory is of playing house games for a small financial consideration and finding the transition from poker difficult one (in poker, when you bluff, you sometimes fool the opposition; in bridge you also fool your partner). After a short but costly education, I was introduced to club bridge by my friend, somewhere on the southside. In House Bridge (known as Rubber Bridge), the cards are re-dealt after each hand. Club Bridge is different, cards are all dealt at the start of round one and are passed from table to table during the night and the results compared at the end of the night, this is called Duplicate Bridge. In a club game everyone pays a small entry fee (currently €5) and there are prizes at the end. There are net and gross prizes so that less skilled and less experienced players can compete.

Bridge is played all over the world (including, naturally, on the internet). I have played while on holidays, in places as far apart as Canada and France (trefles = clubs, carreaux = clubs). The national body, to which almost all clubs are affiliated, is the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland or CBAI and for organisational purposes, the country is divided into 13 regions. Mullingar, Longford, Tullamore, Birr and Athlone are the largest towns in the North Midlands region and regularly hold qualifying events to select representatives for national competitions.

Mullingar is probably the best equipped of all the towns in the region, and its Bridge Centre operates seven nights a week all year round. Three clubs play in the centre, Ennell club on Monday nights, Lake Club on Wednesdays and Fridays and Belvedere on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, there is a Bridge club attached to the golf club, which meets on Monday nights in winter.

In all, Mullingar has some 200 active bridge players, many of whom play in two or even three of the clubs.

When you learn to play and join the centre, you become part of this community. As somebody who came to Mullingar in 1980 as a blow-in, I can truly say that I made friends for life through the game and heartily recommend it.

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