Brian Mac Devitt, Ultimate Frisbee

So long and thanks for all the discs

We are here to celebrate and lament the recent retirement of Brian Mac Devitt.

A legend of Irish Ultimate. He took a few moments to reflect with us on a long and successful Ultimate career as Ireland Open’s most capped player.

 

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Thanks Brian for your time. Are you really retired? 

From “competitive, giving it everything I’ve got, with the bit between my teeth” Ultimate, yes. That race was long, and now it is run.

For sure?

For sure. I’ve been going to the well over and over for 17 years now. That’s enough for me.

What made you feel it was time?

Of all the things that I personally wanted to do in the sport, there aren’t any left. The only thing I felt I still needed to do was to complete the launching of Ranelagh, and hand the team over. Once that was done, it was time to stop.

 

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No interest in simply lowering the intensity?

My thinking is a bit too black and white for that. It’s been all or nothing for all these years.  Maybe at some point in the future I’ll come back and play at a different pace, but I don’t even know that yet.

Origins, let’s go back in time, to that long and distant place, back in the late 90’s. Outside the DUCAC office at Trinity. In my memory you came onto the scene mid school year, which was a little unusual,  that meant you weren’t signed up via freshers week?

I can’t remember it that well. What I do remember is Irish Ultimate’s resident New Zealander Mike O’Meara took my number in freshers week (along with my fiver) and assured me someone would be in touch. I couldn’t get the idea of the sport out of my head so after three months of hearing nothing I went along to the Trinity Sports offices to see if there even was a team (or a sport) or was it just some Kiwi making fivers on the sly. I bumped into yourself coming out the door and there it all began. You were on your way to the Edinburgh beginners that weekend, where you led the Dublin Pookas to victory (somewhat dubiously, would you say Simon……?)

Ahem. I can confirm we did claim Ireland’s first Edinburgh beginners tournament win. I can confirm there was a young Irish guy on the team (from Maynooth as it happened!), and beyond that the rest is all lost in the recesses of time. Apart from a hammer I threw the length of the pitch, over the spectators heads, into the endzone and the hands of an Irish receiver. Sweetest hammer I ever threw, naturally he dropped it of course. 

 

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Favourite game played (I’m guessing Ireland beating Denmark at Europeans – but I might be wrong), why?

Nope, you’re right. The following game against France (where again, everyone presumed the Irish would lose) was much more important and we played as well if not better, dismissing them 17-12. That qualified us for the 1/4 finals, but the previous match against Denmark had it all. It was an unbelievable experience. Ultimate is a really difficult sport to deliver an upset in because you have to keep scoring 15 or 17 times to win (or 19 in the case of the Denmark match). You can’t just nick one early and hang on. For the Denmark match, the stakes were really high. They were the previous EUC bronze medalists and people though we were just some plucky upstarts. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, the game was epic. Wild, absolute euphoria is something I experienced very rarely in Ultimate, only twice actually. We caused a few upsets that year, but that one was the most exhilarating of them all. I can’t imagine any of us on that team will ever forget it.

 

Best Irish VII ?

Best Irish 7 is too difficult (and perilous) a question to answer. What I will offer is that in my opinion the two best players Ireland have ever had are Cian O’Morain and Niall Harbourne.

Nicely dodging the bullet there! Most inspiring player you played with, why?

Rob Alpen was the heartbeat of Clapham from about 2002 until 2008. He was the best leader I’ve ever played with and probably the best player too. I’ve never seen one person give such a lift to an entire group, even if he was sidelined. He made it so easy, an invitation you were bursting to take up, to hurl yourself into battle when you saw you had Rob leading the charge.

Favourite tournament, why?

Captaining Ireland Open in the European Championships in 2007 was the best single tournament. The whole season was a dream experience, but tournament itself was the most amazing, exhilarating roller coaster where we shocked everybody, including ourselves.

I always presumed that would be the best thing I was involved in until Darren Costello changed my mind recently. I actually think that having a hand in leaving behind a sustainable sports club like Ranelagh pips it. The 2007 team was actually a dream realised, but Ranelagh is the club team I always dreamed of playing on, and now it exists. That might sound a bit cheesy, but I’m lucky enough for it actually to be true. 

 

 

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Best final you won

The majority of finals I played in were won/lost relatively comfortably. Very few of them were close, none of them nailbiters. I am proud to have captained an All Ireland winning side, even if that particular final was far from pretty. However I felt we did great and showed great character to win the EUCR qualification in 2013. Behind the scenes we were struggling with injuries and we went out with a team half full of rookies. It wasn’t pretty either, but a gritty little win to be proud of.

[Age and declining memory means that Brian has forgotten winning the Dublin final by a point, coming back from a 5 nil deficit, but we’ll add it here to his glowing valediction.]

Why did you keep playing this sport in preference to any other?

There is something unique and hard to describe about the sport and the people who play it. Do other sports have so many people getting bitten by the bug like Ultimate? I don’t know, but I wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last person to get captivated by the sport and the community.

What has been the best part

The camaraderie. I’ve valued being on every team I’ve been on, but without fail at the start of each season, Dominick, Marko, Nialler, Rob Keily, Podge and myself would saddle up in Dublin for another crack at it, knowing we could all count on each other week after week, month after month, year after year. That’s a great thing.

 

Other highlights?

I’m proud to have been a part of every senior Irish Open team and to be the senior Irish Open team’s most capped player. To have been nominated as MVP, MSP and captained Ireland Open is humbling, as is having been part of Ireland Open being awarded SOTG at three WUGC in a row.

Seeing women’s Ultimate earn it’s way off the ground from it’s small beginnings was great. Helping form Ranelagh has been fantastic, and something I wasn’t expecting at the tail end of my ‘career’.

Anything you’d change?

Not really. One very minor thing would be removing the public vote from of the IFDA player of the year, or better yet, if it was replaced with an All Star model like GAA. Allow the community at large to be fairly represented by (or even vote for) a panel of people, and have them decide. If we’re being honest, I think we all know the public vote isn’t the best model.

Regarding important stuff though, I wouldn’t change anything in the community. People respect each other (it’s too much to expect people to be best friends with their rivals) and the game is played enthusiastically and fairly so I’d say we’re doing fantastic.

Funny anecdote

Dave Mistear captaining Ireland in the 8 Nations. Dave doesn’t know the cap has gone. With great relief we score the winner. Simultaneously Dave spins to address the sideline, turning his back to all the players as they celebrate, commiserate and shake hands. Dave delivers his message, roaring “THERE’S A LONG WAY TO GO YET”. Dave turns. Dave laughs.

Any tournament you wish you played?

Nope. I’ve never played in a hat tournament though. Realising that doesn’t change my answer thought : )

Yes, I hate hat tournaments too.

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Favourite throw?

Anything that came out of your hand before your brain had time to catch up and realise it would have made the same decision. That’s rare, but when it does happen it’s something great and kind of humbling but generally hard to put into words.

Favourite play?

The HMS Pinafore

Genuinely though,

– score on the guy who just dropped the pull.

– Paying attention to when your guy isn’t looking and then cut. Fool proof if you can hold your nerve.

– Free up the cutter by making eye contact with the guy who’s poaching off him. Fake for 2 seconds at him and let him think he’s doing a brilliant job. Unbeknownst to him his guy is now off on the other side of the pitch. You throw to him and start to feel all clever about yourself.

– Alan Doyle used to recognise when it was a good idea to throw through the guys legs, and then would have the skill and the guts to do it.

– Peter Sandin taught us a little something that got renamed the Giller Shuffle.

– The “fake fake” after a stoppage. Look at your marker’s hips and identify which way is easy for him to run. Get him to think he’s clever by identifying your first more as a “fake”, but it’s actually a fake fake. The real fake comes next and it moves in the direction that is comfortable for him. Do it well enough and they think they’re a step ahead so they’re happy to cover the 2nd move. Then you’re off on your 3rd move in the direction behind their hips.

 

Captain Brian (1)

You played handler and sometimes not – where do you think was your most effective position? Did you ever play long / endzone, would you have liked to play that more often?

As you’ll remember when we started (perhaps like Uni teams still???) the player base was so small that if you had any experience, you were required to play at the back. After 17 years I have most certainly pigeon holed myself as a handler so it’s very hard to imagine, but I’d be curious to see would the same thing happen if I turned up in today’s environment.

Masters World Beach in Dubai March 2015?

No chance. If it was in Wexford then maybe, but still only maybe.

You were the second in what is a now distinguished line of Irish #21’s . Why #21? Were you were inspired by the previous incumbent?

Well, yes, but that’s not quite how I wound up with the number. The short answer to that is that life has a sense of humour. The slightly longer version says that when I moved to the UK in 2003, I was in two minds about trying out for Clapham because frankly, at the previous European Club Championships in Prague, they seemed like a total pack of dicks. Hopefully I’d be forgiven for saying that the poster boy for all that was a chap by the name of Guy Bowles, who had the number 21.
 
I got over myself, tried out, and found out that like most teams (even Irish teams) it looked a lot different from the inside compared to how it looked from the outside. They were a great bunch. I wanted the number 12 but it was gone. So the heavens decided to randomly allocate me a number, the now departed Guy Bowles’ number 21. 

Ten years later I find out at a baseball game in Pittsburgh that the number 21 is on shirts everywhere after one of their all time favourite players. I was delighted to find out both Pittsburgh and myself love the number 21. Thanks random-allocation-of-shirt-number!

What should I have asked you?

You should have asked “who do you have to thank in Ultimate”. I’d have said you. God knows where we’d all be without the shift you put in. Hundreds and hundreds of people continue to benefit from it without even knowing.

While we’re on the subject I’d thank the people who step up and do the stuff that has to get done, IFDA organisation, team treasurers, scheduler organisers, all the nuts and bolts stuff that has to get done. The list of names is far too long to go into, but I really respect the people who step up and put a shift in when it’s easier to stay quiet.

Final thoughts 

What a wonderful ride that was.

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10 thoughts on “So long and thanks for all the discs

    • AubreyRamirez says:

      Heya, how you getting on in Canada, looks like you’re having a great time.

      We’re heading up to Donegal soon – you back?

      Have a great time anyway, cheers S

      Like

    • AubreyRamirez says:

      Yes, and he is ‘only’ 35, which was about the age the Johnny Chimpo even began for some of us – and we had another great 5 years with that orange roller coaster!

      Like

  1. It was a real pleasure playing with you, Brian. I was only around for the opening chapters, but I clearly remember being astonished at your meteoric improvement, speed and commitment. I think the Euros in Prague may have been the last time we played together and you were epic. Enjoy retirement.

    Like

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