Glasgow University recently played host to the Scottish Universities Annual Canoe Polo Championship. On February 5, 25 teams from all over Scotland descended on Glasgow to compete for the coveted Open Shield and Ladies’ Cup in the only inter-university competition in the Polo calendar.
For the uninitiated, canoe polo is essentially water polo in, well, canoes, with five members on a team competing to score by throwing, dribbling or paddling the ball up the swimming pool, before thrusting it into the opponents’ goal. Perhaps surprisingly, the rules permit the pushing of players in possession of the ball into the water.
It can all get rather frantic, however, buoyancy aids are worn by all competitors and anyone contemplating a career in the sport will be pleased, or rather relieved, to note that no serious injuries occurred during this year’s event.
Glasgow University have a strong record in this competition, and this year did not disappoint. Their dominance in the sport over the last few years has been unfailing, and in a squad littered with internationalists they retained the cups that have come to be regarded as regular fixtures in the Glasgow University trophy cabinet. Their A team, made up of John MacArthur, Chris Bell, Ben Marshall, Teng Wei Keong and Paul Walker, won the Open Shield for a third year running; narrowly beating Strathclyde University for the second time in two years, by two goals to one. The team had cantered to the final, and even the most resilient of performances by Strathclyde in the highly anticipated Glasgow derby could not stop the hosts.
Glasgow Ladies also maintained their three-year-long winning streak in the Cup. Glasgow’s first team cruised through their group stages and into the finals, with such an appearance of ease that they looked destined to retain the most highly regarded trophy in the world of Scottish university canoe polo.
The team, led by Lorna Denny alongside Cath Johnstone, Ali MacLeod, Catriona Dykes, Amy Cowell, Rachel Burgess and Caity Aitken, captured the trophy when they hammered (and there really is no other word for it) Aberdeen Ladies 11-0.
The plate was contested by Glasgow University B team who narrowly missed out on a place in the final, and the chance to ensure a Glasgow whitewash, after an agonising loss to the Aberdeen B team, finally being edged out 2-1 in extra time. Aberdeen went on to win the plate, and restore some Northern pride after their humilation in the ladies, when they triumphed over Heriot-Watt.
For a club that recently had to deal with the theft of crucial equipment worth around £20,000, this competition provided light relief for members of the Glasgow University Canoe Club, who opened their doors to accommodate over 100 visiting competitors from cities all over Scotland.
The strong performances displayed by all three Glasgow University teams bode well for the upcoming British Universities Championship in May. Given their blistering form in this competition, they will certainly be one of the favourites to win the competition.
Organised by Susie Benson, Ben Marshall and Louise Cullum, this year’s event was declared an all-round success, and the club is keen to encourage others to try out the unusual sport.
As explained by Cullum, canoe polo must be seen to be truly believed. So for anyone who is interested in checking it out, and tempted to get involved, training takes place on a Thursday night from 6.30pm to 9.00pm in the Stevenson Building pool, and beginners are, of course, welcome to go along.