Ireland, Ultimate Frisbee, Women's Ultimate

Emer Mernagh, Irish / Aussie Ultimate ace

By @SimonCocking

It’s a shame she’s been over in Oz so long, but from playing with her in 2005 onwards she was always great fun to play with. Never afraid to give the male members of the team a bollocking if they needed it. She was a bright eyed member of the ’05 Rostock Europeans clubs team, and then went on to be a member of both of the successful mixed and open teams over the next few years in Ireland. She’s been part of some great ultimate moments, with an awesome huck, and some great photos to prove it. Here she is in her own words …


What sport did you play before ultimate / at school?

In secondary school I played numerous sports such as basketball, netball, tennis but my main sport was badminton. I played for my county and won a good few tournaments. It was a lot of fun and something I got back into it here for a year but ultimate took over my time and pushed it back into the cupboard. I’ll go back soon though.

Was it difficult to stop that / why did you start playing ultimate?

I never actually stopped playing badminton. I played straight through my 4 years of college and then joined a club in Tenure once I graduated. I’ve maintained most of my skills so I’m happy with that J

I started playing Frisbee in my 3rd year of college and all the credit goes to Niall Deehan (aka Seb) and Micheal Larkin. I was in the same course as both of them and one day they dragged me to DCU hall to give it a go. There were loads of people there; discs flying everywhere. I remember throwing my first forehand and throwing it into the wall to the left of me, I thought it was hilarious so I kept going. Then I figured out there was more to it and once I realised it was an outdoor sport I enjoyed it even more, even playing in miserable weather.

Rostock, you played that very young, maybe your 1st or 2nd season – how did you find it – playing with and against more experienced people?

It was actually my first season. I started playing around November I think and my first tournament was NYE Beach in Berlin. It was an indoor beach tournament in Berlin. I went along with Dominick Symth and it just engrained the sport into me more.

The people were lovely and I am still friendly with some today.

Rostock was an experience in itself. It was my first serious tournament and I knew I wasn’t quite ready but you guys needed the numbers so I jumped on the bandwagon (isn’t that how all teams were made back then). It was a great decision. I always wonder how good we would have been if we had another year of training under our belts and hearing Perfect Dave speak fluent German was pretty cool as well.

emer & laura

You emerged onto that team along with Laura from DCU, how was it starting at DCU, how did you find the ultimate scene there?

Laura was so much better than me when we first joined and I came to learn she played in school so I was already jealous of her finding out about the sport before me:-p She had this beautiful forehand that I was so jealous of at the time. My competitive streak kicked in and I made it my mission to one day be able to throw better than her. She was very fast and a good jumper so I had to beat her a throwing 😉

DCU was a great place to learn. Yiv showed every girl a very warm welcome and even though boys don’t throw to girls, a few misguided throws went my way and so I felt part of it all. I think my first year we had the infamous Donegal Trip and that sealed us all in this forever friendship. When you get up to that much messing it’s hard not to form strong ties with people. My college experience was only 2 years so most of my time was playing with Throwin’ Shapes, Biddy Murphy, MAC or Ireland.


Emer, front row, 5th from left

Soon after you began playing for Ireland women, what was it like to make the team? Looking back what were hi’s lows, and what could have been done differently?

It was amazing! It’s something that I’ve come to love more as years go by. Playing for your country is something special and as cliché as it sounds, being able to play with a bunch of friends is even better. Yes there were strong personalities on the team, mine probably being one of the strongest, but we had fun and had some beautiful wins and tough losses.

One of my favourite highs was during one of our warm-up tournaments; Windmill Windup. We beat the French National team to get into the final against the Italian National team. They were quick, tall and fast and they won the game quite convincingly but there was one point where they were playing zone on us. They had us pinned back and I saw Laura sneak off to the endzone, to this day I don’t know how I threw it but I threw one of the best throws of my career from our endzone into there’s straight to her. The crowd went wild obviously!


Front row, second from right

We arrived home from that tournament to a heroes welcome of green and gold at the airport as it was the first time an Irish women’s team had made the final of a European tournament. It was a great feeling.

Not too many lows come to mind. I’m very good at forgetting the bad ones. However I would have loved to have played better at Rostock. It was probably way too early in my career for it but I would have liked to have been able to give it more.


Johnny Chimpo! the only regular female on the team, why on earth did you want to play for them? 

I absolutely loved playing for Johnny Chimpo. I say it was the fact that I could tell the boys there to get their shit together and they just laughed at me! I hold my time on that team as some of my best ultimate days and the boys taught me some discs skills that ladies didn’t use at the time so it helped me to grow.


In the orange of Johnny Chimpo

What was it like?

It was great. They were a mixed bunch of messers, serious and old people :-p Cian and Enda would always have my back when the guys would try and go long on me… I don’t actually think any of them managed it with those two on their tails.

I remember one ‘friendly’ game against Broccoli in UCD and we started on Offence, so out I jumped to the line. They got the turn, both Cian and Enda were bursting long for an open pass when it happened so I was left deep. Tadgh aka Tiger burst deep for a score for Broccoli and I chased after him. I jumped and just tipped the disc with my fingers to take it off its trajectory…. Yesss I D a boy!

Needless to say the boys thought it was hilarious and Cian’s words to me after was ‘Jeez I thought we were screwed there!” Thanks for the vote of confidence!


Great photo, taken by Emer?

You played when they demolished Faff in the Cork final, a strong member of the O line, how was that?

That was a lot of fun and I wish more of it was recorded as my memory is so bad I can’t remember it fully. I played the O points mainly and I believe I came off the field with 0 turnovers which is great.


Emer bottom row, 2nd from right,  +1 & ‘lil sister  (& ace photographer & spider remover) backrow far right

Mixed ultimate, throwing shapes, All Ireland winner, the good bits / bad bits?

My mixed ultimate scene was short in Ireland. It was good but I think I didn’t have enough time with it to know how much fun it was. Throwin’ Shapes was a lot of fun and I will always remember it fondly as the first team I had a co-ed shower with along with a bottle of champers.


Australia. What’s the ultimate scene like? (and compared to Ireland)

Compared to Ireland it’s not great if I’m honest. The skill level appeared higher when I first came out and the numbers are definitely more but the atmosphere and range of tournaments you can play back home is so much better than here in Australia. The Australian’s just don’t know how to have the craic. They go for one drink and they mean a little one… there is never any stretching it out. I’ve not even had one impromptu random night out, that happens so often at home. Half the teams don’t even show up to the parties organised at tournaments anymore. It’s just disappointing.

Highlights of Oz playing career?

Playing in Seattle with the Firetails in ECC (Emerald City Classic). It was part of trying out for the Firetails which I sadly didn’t make. It was a tough blow and I suppose affected how much I enjoyed playing here being close to politics of the Frisbee scene here was frustrating.

My current womens team Rabble has been going for the last 3 years and last year we finished 5th at Australian Nationals, which was incredible for us. We have a great coach Alec. It was his first year coaching women’s ultimate but he has definitely relaxed around us more and brought the team on so much!


How is it living in Sydney, lots of other Irish too, lots from DCU too, – or not a big part of your network?

Hmmm it’s a mix, it really depends on what time of year it is. Michéal is down in Melbourne but he shows his lovely face in Sydney to surprise us all once in a while. Pete and Louise have now joined us in Sydney and they seem to be settling down well. The long-term residents Al and Luan are prominent in the DUFF club and we see them regularly for a pint or a bottle of wine (we’re all posh over here now). Jiggles and Duffman are in the gang as well but as Jiggle injured her leg badly she hasn’t been able to play the last year and won’t play anymore before they head back to Ireland next year. It’s great to have the few people from home to hang out with and help the homesickness ease a bit.

The rest of my social life is other travellers and a good few Aussies. The dog has widened our friendship circles a bit as well which has been great. We are never short of someone to call on on a quiet Friday night to go for some food or a cheeky schooner!

You’ve been there a while now, will you be there for a long time too?

It’s always hard to say a definite answer to that question. For now it’s a yes. The classic phrase ‘it’s just so far from home’ comes up regularly when I’d love to pop home to try out for an Irish team or go to someone’s birthday party etc. For now I am happy here enjoying the sunshine and mild winters.

Spiders, how do you manage! Big, mostly not poisonous?

I don’t! The other half disposes of them 90% of the time. Otherwise it is a wonderful spray called mortein and a big bloody as shoe! The cockroaches are more plentiful than the spiders and they are just as gross.

Your ultimate playing siblings, your fault? What happened there? 

Yes my sister is definitely my fault and then my brother followed. I didn’t think Keith would like it so much but Frisbee won him over as well. Fiona went to DCU as well and Keith found the route through Tallaght IT.

You didn’t get to play together that much with them though?

It was a shame that they started playing so late after me. I did play Europeans with Fiona which was great but I have only played a Christmas Hat tournament with Keith and that didn’t really showcase how good a player I’ve heard he has become.

Do you have another sibling that doesn’t play? If so, what do they make of it all?

Yup our older sister by-passed all the sports. She used to play a bit of badminton with me but she lost interest in it. The competitive Mernagh gene skipped her for some reason. I think I got her dose as well


What’s it like having an ultimate playing partner?

Darkie has actually not been playing for the last 2 years so it’s been a while since I had one over here. Back in the good ole days it was really good fun. It meant weekends away with a ton of people and parties all the time. Now unfortunately it’s expensive weekends away for one with my annual leave diminishing and his growing so makes it hard to take non-Frisbee time off and go on holidays.


What’s it like actually playing with them?

It’s was fun when we got to play together. I think the best time we played with each other was when we were both on Johnny Chimpo. The ease of winning made it easy to enjoy it more :-p.

Over in Australia we have now played a league season and 2 Mixed Nationals seasons together. The mixed scene over here is very different. Each year new teams are formed and you have to be in the know in order to get on a decent enough team. It can lead to many frustrating emails and eventually tournaments.

It’s hard to play with your partner sometimes especially when you are both as competitive and stubborn as each other. You have your own personal dialogue that you use in every day speech, which can be worst when brought onto a pitch. That one look that means ‘If you don’t get off the couch and clean the house’ also works quiet well when they throw the disc away and so a lot is said without it being said. Although I think the same can be said as a positive but we just haven’t managed that part of it yet. It’s best when we play opposite points. haha.

Reflect for a moment on being part of the team, with your +1, that won the Sligo final beating Marko, Dman, and a bunch of other good players – (made me laugh anyway).

I’ve no recollection of this whatsoever but Mark informs me it was a great game. I also asked him if I was awesome but he said he was too busy being awesome himself! Darkie also says I kept giving out to Marko for laying out as we were playing Dr. Sand and Mr. Grass a couple of weeks later and I didn’t want him to injure himself… that does sound like me!


Are you about to retire? What are the factors, too many injuries, busy, spiders?

Hmmm this is very present at the moment and it really depends on what day you ask me. Do I just play one more season or do I put my name back on the radar for 2016 and try out for another Worlds team. When I first arrived I was a keen bean. I wanted to get involved straight away and now I am not so sure. This next season will tell.

What should I have asked you?

I can’t think of anything else 🙂

Anything else to add?

photo (2)

A picture of a Huntsman and Murphy our 10 month old German Shepherd with a sliotar 🙂

photo (3)




One thought on “Emer Mernagh, Irish / Aussie Ultimate ace

  1. Pingback: The latest 7 Ultimate interviews, with added girl power | Sarah Paddle Swim

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