A player whose career has spanned every decade of Irish Ultimate. He was there near the beginning, popped out for a pint of milk, and then reappeared several years later with a new team. They won their first tournament, and laid the roots for the orange machine that became Irish Ultimate’s first great club. After that he then had a successful career coaching multiple Irish national and club teams.
Alan ‘Dman’ Doyle.
It’s less well known that you actually began playing in the 90’s too, when Ultimate still played at the pav’ in TCD. What year did you start?
I moved to Dublin in ’96 and started throwing a disc around maybe spring of ’97. Some American dude had a disc and we made “a jumpers for endzones” pitch across the pav. We were dreadful but it was good craic.
I made one or two “training sessions” but had labs at the same time so that didn’t work out. I was still heading home at weekends then so it was later in the year before I made my way to Herbert Park for my first evening pick-up with an adult beverage afterwards.
How do you remember those times?
What made you start playing?
I had played sports all through school but didn’t carry on in College. It just kind of felt right. The social aspect of throwing a disc around on a sunny day was enough to get me to bite. The competition that came later meant I was hooked.
What did you think of the large expat mix at the time?
I remember yourself and Mikey; two obnoxious hippy types. If I’m honest about it, I probably wasn’t mature enough at the time to give you guys the time required to get to know you. You are an acquired taste Simon.
Mm, marmite, marmite …
I remember you as being fast, funny and a little quiet.
Very quiet I’d say. I ran track in school so had that going for me and to be honest, it wasn’t tough to be faster than most of the players at that time.
You then stopped playing for a while. What made you stop, (or if that’s personal) what made you start again.
Not being able to make weekend pick-up was probably the main reason for not keeping it up. I moved out of the city then in ’98 too so heading back in to make practice in Herby was tough.
Some strange coincidences got me back in the game again. The Universe provides as they say. I was hanging around with a bunch of lads and we would throw a disc about in the park, playing DONKEY and the like. We bumped into Britboy one day who thought this was deadly.
You then reappeared with bunch of pals, all playing together, as a ready made, ‘new pookas’ team. Brian Mc D took you to Edinburgh, and you won I think? What was that like, to win, and to play again with some friends?
The scene was totally different to what it is now. The player base was tiny, quality was low and for Brian to stumble across a few lads who were athletic and had some disc skills was too good to be true. It was as it turned out. I was the only one to continue playing long term.
Brian asked us if we wanted to go to a competition in Edinburgh and we jumped at it. It was funny. We were all in our 20s playing against college students so it was literally men against boys. That weekend started a long list of Sunday morning scrapes.
About 4 from that gang, you, Viv, Rob, +1?, then all made it on to the 2003 national team.
It was just the three of us, yea. Again, we were older and had some cash. There was a joke at the time that if you could afford to go you’d make the team, such was the state of Ultimate in the country at the time.
Rob Kennedy, successful but short playing career for Ireland
Rob Kennedy won best rookie, and promptly never played again. What happened there?
He had some issues with one of his knees and two operations later it was recommended that he doesn’t play cutting sports any more. It was a shame because he was pretty athletic.
It seems to have happened more than once that after someone makes the national team they then don’t play again. What do you think happens there?
It depends. Like, I said, I think that at the time if you could afford to go you almost made the squad. I think that a lot of beginnery types who made early squads didn’t get as much pitch time as they would have liked and I think that put them off a little bit. With the development of under age and under 23 events that tends to happen less and less these days. Now there is tough competition for spaces on these under age squads and by the time it comes around for them to make senior squads, those not fully committed are well gone.
Next came Throwing Shapes (the mixed team of same era), it sort of complemented Johnny Chimpo. It ran for a similar time period, and some would say the hatching ground for JC.
So, was it a similar vibe?
I think TS served a similar purpose to that of JC. There just wasn’t anything else for the people involved. I played with shapes but didn’t have anything to do with the direction. Wet Beavers were put together so that non national team players could go and play Brit Open. I think the idea of shapes stemmed from that. There were a lot of players that played for both Shapes and Chimpo, but the distinction was clear.
There was a very similar vibe to both except for some very early signs of the buzz being wrecked. Both teams rolled and had the craic but, to me, Shapes had to be forced a lot of the time.
Did Throwing Shapes work? It seemed to, for about 4 years, and then, without anyone really saying they were done, it was done … A shame or a natural end point?
Yea, for sure. It showed that mixed could be a good way to enjoy the sport, albeit, at a national level, not necessarily international. Rostock killed it for some of us I think. We’d done it before in 2003 with the Open and it sucked for it to happen again. I think we hit Mixed Nationals in 2007/8 and won a windy final. It was nice to finish on a high. It had reached its natural end point I think. The growth of the sport had allowed National Mixed teams to develop by this stage too so the energy had gone.
Rostock 2005 mixed clubs, the lost all their games, but perhaps a turning point in the evolution for some players, such as perfect dave, & some of the women players? Some positives to take out of it?
I think the players you’re talking about were destined to improve and become really good players in spite of Rostock and not necessarily because of it. Of course there were positives, similar to 2003, preparation is important, not boozing is important and winning takes more than just showing up.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my time with shapes and is was Ultimate with a capitol FUN but from a competitive Ultimate point of view, which is where it was for me, it just wasn’t all there.
You got better and better, at the same time as JC emerged. What was that like a meeting of minds?
Thanks. At the time there were no club teams in Ireland. There were the Uni teams, Shligo and Pookas. There just wasn’t an outlet for players who were no longer in Academia. I was looking for something a little more than pick-up and pookas, so I got together with a few of the lads; Reuben, Steve, Fuzzy, Brian, Marko, Ice man, Justin and Lavan, and JC was rolled together. It was the end of 2003 and we hit up an indoor tourney in Leeds for our first outing, Hussy and Wozzer played with us that weekend too.
The gorrillas, the suits, the banners, the homemade printing stamps, how would you describe your time playing for Chimpo?
Its hard to describe. It wasn’t just the ultimate, we were a bunch of lads, and Emer, with a similar outlook. It didn’t start like that though, it snowballed as we picked up players and tournament wins. It gradually turned into an unstoppable orange machine, we had 30 players on the roster in 2009. We hung out together, “trained” together, won and lost together. I loved every minute of it. The players I got to play with and against at the time were far more to me than players.
Siege Winners. So hands off sometimes he wasn’t even there!
You were the captain for JC longer than anyone else I think, how would you describe your style?
Laissez faire. Definitely laissez faire. It was easy to do it that way. The team needed direction but the players never really needed leadership. With players like Stokes, Dom, Rory, Blonde, Mavis, Darkie, Tommy, Podge, Mick, Enda, Emer, Begsy, Hogi, even yourself Si, it was just…easy.
To me your style was quiet and non demonstrative. Was this because the team knew what it wanted to do anyway.
A lot of what we did on the pitch was because of what we’d decided or talked about before going out. We had a way of playing. It was somewhat organic as in we had positions that required players and intelligent players who would fill those positions when necessary. It allowed me to be quiet and non demonstrative. That being said, I’m sure my cap hit the floor on a few occasions.
Or perhaps like trying to get a bunch of cats to walk in the same direction at the same time. I think at one point I counted 6 past, present or future Ireland captains on the line sometimes. Potential nightmare?
Not at all. It was never like that. We had a common goal and even if things weren’t going our way we kept that goal in mind. There was never a power struggle for leadership or playing style or positions. We all had a mutual respect for each other and we had each others backs, no matter what.
You captained Ireland too, how did that go? Better or worse than just playing.
Did I? Funny story that. Kiely and I provided some assistance to Tadhg in running the show, that’s all.
Better or worse? Definitely more pressure, especially following from the previous year where we smashed it at Euros. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did when I was just allowed to play.
Any lessons learned that you then applied, either as a club captain, or later as a coach?
My playing wound down after that, so I didn’t really get an opportunity to apply any lessons with the club. From a coaching perspective, I know what was required to make an event run successfully; trainings, flights, accommodation, morale, etc. Being in charge is not just about being the man and taking the highs, you’re responsible for the lows too.
As a coach of various national teams you seemed to have a different style again? Would you agree. To me you seemed keen to encourage the players to express themselves, that it was ok to attempt the odd outrageous overhead.
I was always of the opinion that if a throw is on, then you can throw it. The percentage of that throw was what was important and this is determined, not that the time but during the previous month, year or ten years practising it. If you’ve a swilly hammer then that’s low percentage. If you’re receiver hasn’t been practising catching your awesome blades, then that too is low percentage.
Of the teams that I’ve coached, we never had 22 robots so of course I encouraged them to express themselves on the pitch. My thinking was to try to get them to miss a few so that they score loads. There were actually few outrageous throws. It may have looked that way at times though.
You had several working careers, IFSC, IT, working as a school, lifeguard, and now entrepreneur /fitness coach, what made you follow that path?
I’ve always had an interest in the movement side of things. It just seemed a natural step for me to take. I probably would have done it sooner if I hadn’t required the money to support my ultimate habit.
While you’re done playing (I think) you continue to do fitness sessions for ultimate players. Hows that going?
Yea, I think I’m done playing.
Really well. I’ve been doing some work with the Ranelagh laghds this year and hope to continue with that after their successful season. I’ve also been asked to help out with the National Mixed team and the U23 Open for 2015.
10 years ago getting people to run track was tough but all the good teams did it. Today, its tough to get people to do some sort of movement correction and strength training but all the good teams are doing it. People are coming around though. Some of the UCC lads are doing some good work in the Mardyke and what we’re doing here is good.
Ok, anything else I should have asked you?
Best player to grace our shores: Connor Maloney. Junior World Champion, currently playing AUDL with DC Breeze.
Favourite Tournament: I have to say EUC2007, but Savage 5s comes a very close second. Still bugs me that we didn’t win that.
You overview of your ultimate experience playing / coaching / fitness?
I loved every minute of playing and coaching. It’s really hard to put down.
The landscape has changed so much. I learned my trade playing tournaments. One year I think myself and Al Murray played over 20 tournaments. You can’t do that now but there are some really good coaches/players/clubs out there now who can teach you instead.
Anything you think should be done differently?
As the age that players pick up the game decreases, the IFDA, or someone, needs to adopt some form of LTADP and put it into practice.
Tournament formats need to change. 7 games over 2 days is not conducive to long term physical health.
The macho attitude of “I played with an injury” is plain stupid.
No, thank you. These articles are great to read.