About an hour before the opening face-off of the Belfast Giants' EIHL semifinal playoff game last Saturday against the Cardiff Devils, a car bomb exploded in the town of Omagh in Northern Ireland, killing Ronan Kerr, a 25-year-old Catholic policeman. Although no group claimed responsibility, one theory was that Kerr had been targeted by dissident Republican elements who did not want a Catholic working for the state police. The death in a town 58 miles west of Belfast, one infamous for a 1998 bombing that killed 29, was a stark reminder that the Giants' lofty mission to be part of the peace process in this riven land (SI, March 21) can seem a Herculean task on the best of days, a fool's errand on the worst.
After finishing the regular season one point out of first place, Belfast saw its playoff hopes ended 4--1 against the Devils. Defenseman Mike Jacobsen, a Blackhawks fifth-round draft choice in 1999, scored the only Giants goal. Said Belfast coach Doug Christiansen in an e-mail, "The Giants are more than a team. We started the season wanting to be noticed for our on-ice success, but we ended being recognized for something much better. There will be other championships, but the Giants are about what sports can do for a city and a country."