Belfast Telegraph

Incredible UU team pass latest University Challenge test

By Victoria Leonard

The first ever team from Ulster University to compete in University Challenge have spoken of their pride after they clinched a place in the quarter-finals of the popular quiz show.

Last night the team, who have an average age of 50, defeated competitors Warwick University to go through to the next round of the BBC2 show.

After answering a 30-minute whirlwind of questions on topics as diverse as coats of arms, phobias and monkeys, the team topped the leaderboard 170-140 and were congratulated by no-nonsense host Jeremy Paxman.

Team spokesperson Matt Milliken from Comber, who is studying for a PhD in Education at Jordanstown, revealed that the students had never dreamed of making it this far.

"We are very proud to have got so far while representing Ulster University and Northern Ireland," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Before our first appearance, team captain Iain Jack and I were having a pint, and we said that as long as we didn't embarrass ourselves by getting the lowest-ever score it would be okay.

"There were around 128 teams in the running for the show, and that was whittled down to about 28 teams.

"We lost our first match against Edinburgh University, but as we were the 'highest losers' we were able to get a second chance and competed against St Anne's College, Oxford. When we beat them, we qualified to compete against Warwick.

"We are the oldest team in the competition and the Warwick team were much younger than us. To now find ourselves in a situation where we will be guaranteed a further two appearances on screen is just incredible."

In addition to Matt and Peterhead native Iain, the other members of the UU team are Kate Ritchie from Waringstown, Co Down, and Cathal McDaid, from Buncrana, Co Donegal.

Matt also revealed that acerbic host Jeremy Paxman has a "softer side".

"You are aware that he has an aggressive side, but after the show you go to the green room and have some cold beer, and even colder pizza, and he is just there having a laugh with the competitors," he explained.

"I think he has a softer side that you don't always see. He is easygoing, but I wouldn't like to get on the wrong side of him!"

Despite the on-screen competitiveness which exists among teams, Matt describes the atmosphere as "not too cut-throat" backstage, and says that many friendships are forged during the competition.

And as news of their win became public knowledge last night, the local team gathered to celebrate with dinner and - true to form -a pub quiz.

"It's fun - part of it is the craic," Matt laughed. "We only got involved with University Challenge because we all enjoy quizzes so much!"

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