Ultimate Frisbee, Women's Ultimate

Emma O’Callaghan, from West Cork to Galway Ultimate and beyond

By @SimonCocking


When did you start playing?

I originally played 3 or 4 times during P.E. in secondary school but started playing properly when I started college in NUI Galway in September 2013.


I really enjoyed the game during P.E. and had a pretty good idea of how to play so at clubs day at the start of first year when I saw the NUIG Ultimate stand I figured I’d give it a go and I haven’t looked back since.

What did you play before?

I grew up in a pretty remote place in West Cork and we didn’t have a local girls GAA club so I played hurling and football with the lads club (Kilmacabea) until I was 14. Then I decided to travel far enough to play with the ladies football club winning the u.16 county final with Rosscarbery as vice-captain. I also played basketball and football with my secondary school – Mercy Heights Skibbereen.

How difficult is it to recruit new players?

It depends. Some people take more convincing than others. Generally we just let the enjoyment of the game speak for itself. When I started I just fell in love with the sport (and the people) and I think that is how people get really hooked. As well as a few trips to Boojum and our Thursday night adventures of course.


How many student / non student players in Galway ultimate?

The exact numbers are on record somewhere but we generally have approx. 20 at every training session. Our graduates generally still play with us when they are around and we also have a few GMIT/Galway locals that join us sometimes too. Our numbers are growing all the time and I am especially delighted with my new beginner girls this year as we are playing our first ever women’s club team at indoors nats.

How brutal is it to play in Galway throughout the year?

The weather can be pretty brutal at times with a cold wind and rain being fairly regular but I this year we have been fairly lucky . . . touch wood. I know Ireland in general should have roughly the same weather front but Galway definitely comes out worse. You get pretty used to it though.

Galway seem to have a good spirit, is it a good team / town atmosphere?

A bit of both I think. One kind of feeds the other. Galway is a wonderful place to live and the whole town seems to have the same care free, relaxed attitude that ultimate players have so let just say we fit in pretty well.

Any tips to keep people coming?

Keep the fun alive but try to keep the competitive edge to the game. I’m quite competitive so I like to have a bit of competition going but I really enjoy a bit of banter at training too. It also helps when your gang are nice, friendly and chatty like the Galway gang because people tend to feel like they belong pretty much straight away  . . . . I hope.

Have you ever run a tournament on the Aran islands? What do you think about the idea?

Hahaha no but that would be awesome! I have never actually been but I know the craic on the islands off West Cork is mightly so I reckon it would be class. Inis Mor Open anyone?


image by @earleymark

You are on the senior women’s team 2015, How is it to play for the team, it looks like a relatively new team? What are their goals for 2015 and how much commuting for training?

I am indeed. It is a privilege to play with the girls. They are all so good and I am so lucky to get to play at such a high standard. Our first training session was unreal and I can’t wait for the season ahead. Our moto is to “play big” and have a flexible style of play with handlers and cutters being more or less interchangeable. It’s great that we have people coming from most places with girls commuting from Galway, Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Belfast Glasgow and England for training sessions.

Career highlights to date? Favourite tournament?

Making the Irish Senior Women’s team and also being elected as the Open captain of NUIG would be my highlights to date. I don’t know could I pick one tournament but my first ever tournament last year (Trinity Tea party) was probably when I fell in love with the sport with us losing the final by one point. Having said that playing with LMS for their last tournament (Cork Open) and reaching the final was amazing as was coming 7th with an almost full developmental team at Women’s indoor IV’s this year.

Tell us what you know about the history of Galway Ultimate, i.e. what ‘history’ do they hand down to you?

There is a long line of partying and good craic in Galway Ultimate. I feel like we are normally the underdog but we are okay with that. I like being the underdog because it makes every achievement even sweeter. With regards to the history of the club I’d say Eoghan Staunton, Liam Grant and Niall MacDermott could probably tell you a lot.

Irish ultimate, what’s your impression of it? Good / bad / changes you’d suggest?

It’s a great organisation and all the tournaments are very well run. The only change I would make would be to get recognised by higher sports governing bodies to have the sport get the recognition it deserves.

What should we have asked you?

How are you developing ultimate in Galway?

Ok how are you developing ultimate in Galway?

We are setting up schools programes throughout the city at the moment to try and get people to play ultimate from a young age as well as having our first women’s club team entered in Nats this January

Where in West Cork are you from? Not many girls there wanted to play sport – from what you mentioned?

I am from Maulatrahane in Leap Parish but my local town would be Skibbereen which is where i went to secondary school. There was a fair few of us who played sport but it is such a rural area that finding the numbers to keep clubs going can be hard so rather that having a few smaller clubs there was less bigger ones.


What made you change from GAA to Ultimate, pro’s and cons of both?

I love GAA! The atmosphere and community spirit that goes hand in hand with is very unique but I had been playing GAA since I was around 8 and fancied a change. Ultimate was something I had really enjoyed before and decided to give it a chance. Like everything there are pros and cons to both but I really like the fact that ultimate is built on the foundation of honesty. Not having a referee means that the game won’t work unless people are 100% honest which I think is a really important and special part of the game that isn’t really seen in GAA.

You mentioned the West Cork islands, I’m thinking about doing something, maybe a hat tournament on one of them, which ones have you been to? Which would you recommend? 

Oh wow that would be unreal.

Anything to add?

Thanks for the opportunity to do this J



One thought on “Emma O’Callaghan, from West Cork to Galway Ultimate and beyond

  1. Pingback: 7 latest Ultimate interviews February 2015 | Sarah Paddle Swim

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