With everyone busting a gut in Cork resolving who is the best on the pitch in 2014 it seemed apt, with the long winter nights coming in, falling leaves, and putting on the heating again, to return to a time where things were less organised in Irish Ultimate. To capture a sense of this time we tracked down possibly Irish Ultimate’s most shambolic and disorganised player from those halcyon long gone times. Now a hyper organised successful expat in Sydney, an occasional member of the Irish ultimate mafia based over there. Once upon a time in Dublin things were slightly more chaotic.
Thanks Simon for such an epic build up. Wouldn’t have expected any less though.
You were a byword for epic misadventures. To be fair Jamie personified the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime again. Epic layouts for final match winning points in Soton, ambitious and never on hammers, and then back to fantastic game changing layout d’s again. Jamie probably personifies the transition in the Irish team from ‘have a go’, to ‘we can win this’. He’s a funny character and has a good take on how things developed.
.Anyway it’s better if he tells the story. From the beginning, once upon a time …
What did the Dublin Ultimate scene seem like to you when you got here
Frankly, I was just delighted it existed. Coming from the UK uni scene, I hadn’t been short of Ultimate (though even there it took an effort to keep a team going), but Irish uni teams hadn’t made it over at that stage, at least not as far as my foggy student brain had registered.
Anyway, I thought it was great. Small, but very social with enough good players to help me raise my game. I guess it was a bit unstable, with the Americans, Aussies and Canadians in particular coming and going, but I was just glad to be able to slot into a team again and not be the worst person in it.
Where did you play before, Bristol?,
Started at Bristol in my first year with Mythago, who were a bit of a force at the time. I think we won UK Student Indoors my first year, so by the time I, ahem, chose to transfer to the somewhat less glamourous Uni of Kent after my second year, I’d been lucky enough to play within a really solid structure. We even had a coach, an odd cove called Bud Tilden, who the uni paid to train us!
God, he was a character. I played against him a few times. He was really loud. He talked so much with his teammates about the rules, and what they should and shouldn’t have done. In the end most of them left and played for other teams instead.
Kent, on the other hand, didn’t have a team when I arrived. It had one a few years before but it had fizzled out, so I took it upon myself to try to revive it. Forgive the hubris, but it remains a source of pride that it’s still going strongly. And I made some great friends there, like Diggler, whom some of you may remember turning out for Pookas after I’d moved to Dublin.
(Dirk – played in Ireland’s first World Clubs and Nations teams. Probably the most normal of an array of public school characters that Jamie introduced to Irish ultimate including ‘Billy Bunter’ , Mango and Kim, (not these guys sadly)).
From a glorious start to a ragtag army, sounds like the ideal preparation for a move to Dublin in the late ‘90s.
What were your favourite Irish tournaments / matches?
I only really remember the Dublin tournament. There was one in Cork too – wasn’t there? – but I don’t think I ever made it. One particular Dublin tournament sticks in my mind because a few UK teams with players I was good friends with came over, most of whom slept on my living room floor.
The party wasn’t my very finest hour but that’s been adequately covered in these august pages, so no need to go into it again.
I guess the guilty go unnamed sometimes ( in case you missed it, he was the celebrity DJ without any music for the party … darn I said I wouldn’t mention it again, ops).
Who did you enjoy playing with?
Lots of people for various reasons. Right from the start there was your good self just about holding the thing together; Brian Goode for laying out a lot and wearing skirts but barely detectable irony (and nothing underneath, possibly one of the most visually traumatic things to have happened in an Irish ultimate final. Certainly from where I was standing);
Heather for being practically the only girl and, even at 5’0″ beating most of us to the disk; Declan Moore & his then girlfriend (Nicole, she seemed like Audrey Hepburn to his Mad Max. Quietly wondering what on earth she had got herself into) for gamely taking on the substantial challenge of whipping us into shape for Euros; Brian McD for his boundless energy; and latterly Dr Dec, Oisin and Alan (with whom I still occasionally play in Sydney) for showing me that my best days were receding.
And, of course, Eoghan Barry and Chris “Moody Teenager” Stokes, for consistent poker-faced banter.
European Clubs ’01, Crick back row, 2nd from right, Keano 4th from right
Worlds 99 & 00, 01, we gamely battled, but had a tough time, any battle stories?
I remember how humbling our first game in Heilbronn was against Japan. I mean, we knew there was a dicking coming our way, and we’d taken a few in our time (I’m beginning to regret this metaphor), but that was another level. As we put it at the time, they held us down and spanked us. (You see can the benefits of an English public school education coming through here, the ability to so effortlessly mix sport and sexual punishment imagery.)
We did win a game or two though (South Africa and Spain, I believe) and got some respect, as well as the Spirit prize, so I was happy enough. I’ve always got by quite nicely on setting my expectations low and occasionally exceeding them, and this proved to be a good ethos playing for Ireland/Pookas/Craic at the time.
St Andrews ’99, World Clubs, Jamie far left, unaware that the game is actually over and Ireland have finally won their first game at Worlds
I’m out of sequence, but as for St Andrews, I was just thrilled to be travelling “overseas” for Ultimate. It felt very glamourous. Plus my sister had volunteered for the tournament newspaper. Of course, we stank up the tournament but got to see some legendary teams and players (DoG, Jim Parinella, Condors, Skogs aka the Borg).
I think my most heartbreaking loss was at Euros in Prague against a Scandi/Benelux team (editorial reminder required – was it thebigez from Austria?
(Tough one to remember. We beat the Swedish & Scottish teams. Maybe Brian or someone else can remember), who were seeded much higher than us. We played as well as we ever had and so nearly took them. I remember Brian McD playing out of his skin.
One of my favourites was waking up in the morning and seeing the whole of your front door covered in porn, discuss?
It will tell you a lot that I don’t even remember that. The combined effects of being something of a stoner and the butt of most practical jokes at the time. Where was it? Was I in the porn?
One morning during European Clubs ’01, the whole of the front door and entrance to Jamie and Chris Stokes’ room had been plastered in pictures from a local ‘art’ magazine, with lots of young ladies using different chair parts in unconventional ways.
This is probably a wise and strategic move by Jamie. In his glory days at Doubleclick, pre Google buyout, Jamie, to the disgust and bewilderment of his work colleagues once spent three days online researching Anal Sex. To this day Jamie was never quite sure if his boss really needed this research done or if he had been set up in the way that you send the new employee to the hardware shop for glass nails.
Rooming with Stokes, scary?
Terrifying and never to be repeated.
Er, go on?
No no, a gentleman never kisses and tells. You’ll have to go to the mother of his child if you want grubby stories like that. You don’t get me that easily you bounder!
What did you miss about Ireland when you went to Oz
Definitely the way Ultimate in Ireland was run as clubs. Perhaps it was because I was coming from Pookas, who were a mix of students and “professionals”, but I feel like we really bonded in a way that you just don’t in a league-based scene like in Sydney.
Plus, let’s face it, Australians in general aren’t very funny.
Ha ha, they do take themselves a little too seriously sometimes. I think I actually enjoy them losing the Ashes, more than I care about England winning it. It just means so much more to them.
How is the Aussie ultimate scene? How does it compare?
There are a lot of leagues here, including hat leagues, plus people tend to drift from team to team depending on what big tournaments are coming up, such as open and mixed regionals and nationals. Consequently, though you might train hard with a bunch of people for months at a time, chances are that after the tournament’s done, you’re looking for the next team. Not the best way to foster strong bonds, in my opinion. That’s not as important to everyone but I didn’t feel nearly as welcomed as when I first turned up at UCD that first damp Sunday afternoon.
What I will say is that the standard is incredibly high. When I arrived, Sydney’s northern suburbs league had 4 divisions – and that was 13 years ago!
Dec Moore, the Roy Keane of Irish ultimate, discuss!?
Aptly put, Mr Cocking. If you had laid the foundations for Ultimate to thrive in Dublin, he was the man that showed us that we could turn our bungalow into, if not a palace, at least a modestly appointed 3 bedder not too far from D4.
He was an excellent motivator, whether because of his Keanian tendancies or not, and I’ve never trained for a tournament as hard than when he was coaching us. I remember getting to an unlikely D during training in Phoenix Park one evening, expertly circumnavigating the deer shit, and realising that it was down to the hours doing sprints on the Trinity cricket pitch and that they weren’t such a soul-sucking endeavour after all.
I think we will have to try and track him down for an interview. Much like Keano, his borderline sociopathic tendencies did wonders for Irish Ultimate.
There’s many many Irish ultimate players in Sydney, is there an Irish ultimate scene in Oz, or are they all doing their own thing?
The latter really, or if they’re doing it together it’s not with me! Alan’s around but I haven’t seen Declan in about a decade. There’s the fiery and astonishingly good Emer Mernagh and possibly more, but I’ve wound down a bit now and it’s a frighteningly long time since my carefree youth in Dublin.
You have a great reputation for crickisms, tell us some of the highlights in Ireland from your point of view, did this continue in Oz too, or was it merely part of acclimatising to Irish culture?
By Crickisms I assume you mean logistical fuck-ups rather than pithy one-liners that people at parties like to pass off as their own in order to entice prospective bed-mates? In which case, fuck you, Cocking. I’m not your monkey boy.
It is true I have been known to take the more scenic route, both literally and figuratively, but one gets to experience so much more that way.
Too coy by half, see Eoghan’s interview for details on one of Jamie’s epic, entertaining balls ups.
What was it like being English in Ireland. Maybe working for a tech company made it less striking?
I had been expecting it to be a lot more striking than it was, actually. For about the first year I kept waiting for comments in pubs that never came. Perhaps working for a US company with a fair few non-Irish colleagues was a factor, but I don’t think so. Generally speaking, I don’t think Irish people give a shit where you’re from. Not that there aren’t any terrible racists. I always found it equal parts hilarious and ridiculous how some people reacted to African migrants about 50 years after everybody else had moved on.
Jamie at Worlds, looking far too happy after a universe point loss to the Russians
What was it like being English & playing for Ireland?
Sincerely, it was a great honour and something I never tire of boring people with. While I’m very well aware that at the time the main criteria were that you were up for training and could stump up the plane fare to tournaments – and that I wouldn’t have had a hope of getting into today’s team – I’m very proud of it and hope I represented as well as I could.
You’ve just been back in Europe, do you think you will move back to Ireland?
I have very fond memories but that I think that chapter is done for me. I do miss it, but you get spoiled by a place like Sydney.
Do you still play? What position?
I play in the local spring and summer leagues but now play football in the winter and have realised that I’m not motivated enough for the endless drills of training for higher-level Ultimate. I do miss the competitiveness of a tournament with something on the line though. I tend to take the hat leagues a mite too seriously as a result.
As for position, I generally handle, having mostly got my penchant for ill-timed (and executed) hammers under control – not to mention lost a fair bit of speed – but I like to think I still surprise the youngsters now and then with a burst of pace and the odd layout.
Other comments, what should I have asked you?
You’ve been commendably thorough. Thanks in advance for what this will undoubtedly do for my international profile.
Finally it’s now public news that you’re engaged now too. Congratulations, and great that you have followed good advice by marrying above yourself.
Thanks for that backhanded compliment, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from you. Life as a kept man is no bad thing. My lady just got her doctorate, so perhaps there’s a trend here for us underachieving frisbee players.