PEOPLE of all ages gather four nights a week to play bridge at the Bridge Centre on the junction of Bohernatounish Road and the Ring Road.
The city has a strong tradition of the card game dating back to the 1930’s when Henrietta Dugan hosted bridge games in her home in Butler House on Patrick Street. “There are eight bridge clubs who play in the city. The oldest bridge club is the Kilkenny Bridge Club who started playing in Butler House and also played at the home of Her Ross, a german professor who taught at St Kierans College and also lived on Patrick Street and at the home of Gracie Dean, whose husband was a dentist on William Street,” said Kay Molloy who has been an active member of the Kilkenny Bridge Club since 1970.
A number of years later the Nore Bridge club was founded and the first president was William Quinlan who was a pawnbroker on John Street. Other clubs sprung up in the seventies, namely the Ormonde Castle club which was founded in 1972 by chemist Bridget McEneaney and the Abbey Bridge Club which was founded in 1976. The Friary Bridge club was set up in 1984 and two other clubs the Rothe Bridge Club and Club 97 were founded in the nineties.
“Most people are joined two or three clubs and we play bridge here at the centre four nights a week. There is a great social aspect,” said Ms Molloy who added that there were over 400 bridge members in total. The centre has two teachers, Annette Kennedy and Margaret Walsh and there are players of varying ages and abilities. “Jaime Martin, who is in his early twenties plays here and he has played on the Junior International Team. A lot of the players start off as beginners with Club 97 and progress on from junior to senior. I suppose there is a bit of a hierarchy,” she said with a smile. There are lessons offered in the centre during the year which provide people with an opportunity to learn the game.
One of the highlights on the Kilkenny bridge calender is the Lady Elaine Bellow Cup which is an open competition run by the Kilkenny Bridge Club which takes place on the last Sunday in January each year and attracts players from all over the Southeast of the country.
The concept of a bridge centre was first promoted in 1987 and the centre, which is an impressive space was opened in 1990 with an extension added in 1999.
Members in Kilkenny are currently looking forward to the European Bridge Championships which will take place in Dublin in June. The championships are held every second year and were secured for Ireland after Greece withdrew at the last minute. This major competition will take place in the CityWest Hotel in Dublin from June 12-23.