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European bridge is in good hands with Sandie coming up trumps

Every cloud - even the Eurozone crisis - has a silver lining. And the fact that Greece, originally due to organise the European Bridge League (EBL) championships in Athens this year, had to bow out - because of some local financial difficulties - has benefited the Northern Irish bridge community.

Now the Irish Bridge Union has taken over, and Bangor-based Sandie Millership (62) is one of those organising what promises to be a large event from June 12-23 at the City West Hotel, Dublin.

"In terms of bridge, Ireland plays as one team, north and south, so the Northern Ireland Bridge Union and the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland will be running this 50-50. We were chosen to take over by the EBL, I think, because the last championships we held, in 1991 at Killarney, were so successful."

Sandie, who is chairman of the Northern Irish Bridge Union, has been playing bridge for 30-odd years, and has played on the Northern Irish ladies' team and picked up "a few national competitions".

She moved to Bangor from Solihull in the 1970s, following her husband who lectured in pharmacy at Queen's University, and says that the game's slightly posh OAP image is unfounded.

"You can play at a high level or enjoy a game at your kitchen table with a bottle of wine. It isn't just for older people, and we coach in schools. We've been doing well against the rest of Ireland and the Bangor Grammar School bridge team won the all-Ireland schools competition the other weekend."

The qualities needed for bridge sort out the dummies from the good hands, as Sandie notes: "A good memory is quite useful, so you know what cards have been played, but practice makes perfect."

The international bridge community will descend on Dublin come June. Sandie says: "Italy wins a lot. Germany does well in the ladies' event, as do France, and the Ireland open team are pretty good. We took the silver medal place in 2005."

What you need to host these games is, as Sandie says with a laugh, "organisational skills - and money."