The Irish Beer Pong Championship takes place this Saturday in the Bailey in Cork, and ahead of Ireland’s main beer-ponging event, which is to be attended from teams as far away as Finland, I sat down with one of BPong Ireland’s founders Stephen O’Sullivan to talk about the men who take playing beer pong rather seriously indeed.

Against the odds beer pong continues to grow internationally – as a sport rather than a drinking game. The upcoming World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP), which has been running near Las Vegas since 2006 (and to which the winners of Saturday’s event can qualify), is considered the international epitome of beer pong, and will see teams travel from all over the world to try throw balls into the opposition’s cups.

It may seem all a bit ridiculous – particularly to people like me whose experience with beer-pong doesn’t extend far beyond late nights in American university dorms – but the sport itself distinguishes itself as far as possible from the popular drinking game.

BPong Ireland makes a conscious decision to have the back four cups filled with water, while the other six are filled only slightly with beer. The measures are to ensure compliance with DrinkAware guidelines, and to highlight the sporting – rather than the drinking – aspect of the sport.

“We aim to promote the sporting aspect,” explains Stephen, “People are certainly entitled to buy drinks at the bar separate to our tournaments, but BPong Ireland promotes sensible drinking,” he explains.

Stephen, who’s currently pursuing a PhD at UCC, says that the biggest attraction is the socializing rather than the drinking: “Drinking people can do anywhere,” he adds, “but it’s the friendly competition and social atmosphere that draws them to our tournaments.”

BPong Ireland tournaments continue to draw the crowds in droves to their weekly tournaments in the Bailey on Wednesdays (8pm), and a sister organization’s nights in Sober Lane also attract a large following.

I recently checked out the group’s Wednesday night Bailey tournament and found it thriving with people.

“It’s a good night out,” says Kate McCarthy (23). “Nobody’s using it as an excuse to go on the piss, and everyone’s just having a laugh,” she told me while competing with a friend.

When pressed about the skill levels involved, Stephen admits that it’s a case of practice makes perfect: “It seems easy,” explains Stephen, “but there’s actually a real skill to getting the ball in the cup eight out of nine times – it’s not that easy."

The enthusiasm has clearly spread beyond these four shores as well. Saturday’s event will see a delegation from Finland and several other European countries travelling to Cork to take place in the event.