Aidan Kelly, Beach Ultimate, Beaches, BULA, Burrow Beach, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee, WCBU

WCBU : review of Open division with Ireland’s Aidan Kelly

By @SimonCocking

Well done on representing Ireland at WCBU.

Thanks Si! Much appreciated. The support back home was really immense and made us all feel even more proud to be representing our country.

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Open, were there many trials for it?

It was a little complicated, if I remember correctly. Boyler had a great policy where he was not only trying to construct a team, but attempting to publicise Beach Ultimate, so there were some people at the trial that weren’t actually fighting for a place there. Funnily enough the provisional team picked before the Mixed bid went through was also much different to the final squad!

How did you find training over the winter for it?

It was…interesting. We knew that it was never going to replicate the conditions that Dubai would greet us with, but we all had very determined and positive mindsets for each training weekend. It was almost always windy, and absolutely freezing, but we still had plenty of opportunities to fine tune our tactics and attempt to gel as much as possible. The weather/wind was so bad during one of our weekends that we had to retire to Trinity Sports Halls after about 40 minutes on the beach and train indoors. Not ideal!

When you hit the sands of Dubai, what was the contrast like?

Tough. Much, much tougher than I had imagined to be perfectly honest. The sand was so fine, and your feet would sink into it with ease. It was energy zapping and slowed down even our fastest players. It took us awhile to acclimatise but I think by day 2-3 we had come to terms with it.

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How did you find Dubai? Good bits? Any parts like a JG Ballard, post modernist scene?

All I can really do is echo Rory. It’s a bizarrely amazing city that’s hard to really make a fitting description of. So Americanised, but you still see the Middle Easten culture there in the background. It just didn’t seem like real life to me, so although I enjoyed my time there, I don’t see a return trip any time soon.

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WCBU the event – highlights for you? Top games played? 

It was by far the biggest tournament I’ve ever experienced. So well organised, and incredibly fun. You can really see the effort put in by Patrick and the volunteers. I think the feeling of walking around during the opening ceremony and getting to soak it all in will stay with me for years to come!

In terms of games, each game was really competitive and despite only getting one win, I’d like to think every team from 5th to 16th was on a similar level, which is incredibly rare to see and really exciting to play. I think our top game was certainly against the winners! We went out against the US with absolutely nothing to lose and the lack of fear gave us a huge boost. Not only to get the chance to play, but to go a break up against a team of pros was just crazy.

I will also say, it’s the most spirited tournament I’ve ever been apart of. The consistent level across all our games was really humbling and so refreshing to experience. Every team seemed to have a great mutual respect for one another and it made each game that bit better.

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Any wins that got away??

India, without a doubt. They beat us fairly handily on Day 3, so when the rematch came together we were gunning for them. For 80% of the match we were playing our best Ultimate and it looked like we had done enough to win. The Indians have really admirable spirit and drive though and somehow managed to grind through three really long points at the end of the game and pipped us on Universe. We were in absolute bits after that, which showed how much we wanted it.

Singapore, you came close in both games, what made the difference?

I think playing them first thing was the worst scenario we could have been met with. We were still pretty raw as a team, and it was our first ever competitive fixture as a full squad. They, however, were extremely well drilled and had that extra bit of pace on the beach. We gave them a better battle on the final day, but due to a number of reasons (fatigue, lack of focus, the Thursday night party) we lacked that spark needed to best them second time round.

You beat Kenya, was that a highlight? They seemed to start tournament well, but run out of steam – was superior fitness a factor?

I was sadly sidelined for the Kenya game due to almost collapsing from the sun prior to our warm up (Maybe that was the key to our win…). But, I was extremely proud of the team for being able grind through the game and take that much deserved win. From watching the Kenyans, I think they struggled as the wind grew as the tournament progressed. They had a lot of really fast and athletic players, but only a small number of them had the disc skills (or perhaps just the confidence) to play in the wind. That was certainly key in our game anyway, and it was a little funny that the horrible Sutton winds actually stood to us.

Anything that you would do differently as an individual and a team?

Hard to say. I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by the occasion so I played a very safe game. I would rather lose yards and dump than turnover trying to throw a score, of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing but in hindsight it would have been nice to have been able to shake the fear of turning over and throw some no-look scoobers…

As a team, I think we had some really effective tactics, but maybe a lack of plan B did hurt us somewhat. I would put that down to a lack of warm-up tournaments available to us, so I genuinely feel we did the best we could in the conditions we were met with.

Which Open teams really impressed you? 

The Philippines were disgustingly adept with the sand, for good reason. And, as I already said, India had a wonderful attitude and infectious positivity throughout the tournament.

What did GB and Philippines excel at in the games you played against?

As I said, the Philippines were at home on the beach. They would run you ragged and leave you chasing shadows. The most difficult game we played without a doubt. GB were mostly Clapham players so they had great team unity that shown through as they made their way to the final.
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Were the USA any good? Why, what can we steal from them to help Irish Ultimate?

In a word, Yes. They didn’t look like they were light years ahead of the other teams, or even ourselves if I’m being a bit bold. They did, however, have the knowledge, ability and determination to best any team they faced, which was how they are now gold medallists in our division.

What can we steal? Well I think we should all probably spend the next year in the gym if we want to emulate the yanks. They also had a fantastic level of spirit that I honestly didn’t expect. To win the division and the SotG award is huge and admirable. Boyler’s dream double!

Open teams at  World Beach have generally tended to have more inexperienced / debutant players for Ireland. Many of those players have then made great leaps and gone on to do great things for Ireland. 

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Question, what do you plan to bring back to the teams you play for in Ireland? 

I’ve already adopted/stolen a few tactics and systems that Boyler brought to the Duboys, as well as plenty of drills. Personally, I think that the weekends of attempting to play in the horrible weather has improved my ability to throw in the wind, which I’m pretty chuffed about. I think the experience garnered from the week at WCBU (or any Worlds tournament for that matter) is impossible to replicate so I’m pretty happy that I wasn’t the only DIT or Hammertime player over there. It’ll only improve our teams!

Anything else I should have asked you / you’d like to add?

Yes! I’d like to publicly thank Boyler for everything he put into the team. It almost looked like there wouldn’t be any interest in sending any sides to WCBU months ago, but Boyler put the team on his back and put in a huge amount of effort to get us over there. The entire campaign, from the trial to the flight home was a brilliant experience for all of us, and one we probably won’t ever shut up about. Sorry guys! #Duboys

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Beach Ultimate, BULA, Burrow Beach, Interview, Rory Kavanagh, Ultimate Frisbee

WCBU : review of the Mixed division with Ireland’s Rory Kavanagh

By @SimonCocking

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Well done, great week what were your highlights?

Thanks Simon, we’re pretty happy with how the week went in general. My highlights were third day of competition, we knew we had 3 potential knock out games against three strong teams to finish the group and we smashed it. The Portugal game is also probably a bit of a highlight, the result was tough to take but the fight back the team showed and the emotions during that game were something else. The experience of staying in a 90th floor penthouse walking distance from the fields with the team is something that will be hard to forget.

In 2013 you had a surprise loss in the 1st round, this time around Portugal not exactly a ‘shock’ as they are a good team, but anything you would have done differently in that game or any of the others?

The loss to Poland in 2013 was the best thing that happened to us at that tournament. We entered off the back of a strong preparatory season and were probably somewhat complacent going into that game. Poland went up 5-1 by being more intense than us. They hit us like a freight train and by the time we recovered it was too late to take the game back. The lesson we took was that we need to start every game at 100% and try to do what Poland had done to us.

The context in Dubai was very different, we were the higher seeds in the group, but our preparation and team pitch time coming into this tournament was very different from 2013. We had seen Portugal playing in Lisbon and knew they were on form and had a deeper squad than in 2013. The way we started the game was a bit of a shock, but a close final score was to be expected.

For this game I think we were a little bit preoccupied with our opponents. We knew they had a couple of superstar players and what they liked to do. We focused too much on our opponents and less on ourselves so that we ended up starting with some nerves and unforced errors instead on being intense and hitting the field with confidence.

Was it tougher playing so early in the season, with less prep time?

The timing certainly provided some challenges. Having major tournaments in late summer gives you a good 9 months to prepare, and all the regular top competitions are at your disposal to get playing time together. In 2013 our objective was to make the most cohesive team possible by playing 3 tournaments (25+ competitive games together before the actual championships).

This time around due to the short preparation time and high cost of the tournament we had to get the team on the same page before the championships without raising the cost or commitment to a level that excluded the top quality players.

We had no trial, a couple of training days in Sutton and the majority of the squad made it to a warm up tournament in Lisbon. The first time the entire squad of 17 played together was our friendly against Australia the day before the tournament, not ideal.

Did playing in Dubai make any difference or much the same as in Europe?

In terms of playing, organization the tournament was delivered with the same quality and professionalism as ECBU or any of the best European tournaments. The only differences were off the field, the context for the tournament was so different to Europe. None of us had been to Dubai before so we spent the first couple of days craning our necks at the buildings and taking in the mix of culture Dubai has to offer. The heat was a challenge with a couple of players suffering during the tournament but it wasn’t as bad as Worlds in Italy in 2011.

You had some turnover from 2013 team, about 1/3rd maybe? Did that affect things, or not?

We only had 6 returning players from the 2013 squad, only one of which was female. However the vision was very much a continuation from the 2013 experience. The basic plan of playing to the strength of our women on O and a mixed bag of strategies and lots of intensity on D. We lost some of Ireland’s most experienced women, many of whom have since retired but the talent that stepped up in their place was equally impressive.

The average age of the team dropped dramatically. Also the clubs where the players came from were a lot more diverse than previous times. The youth and broad range of backgrounds and skills changed some minor parts of these plans. For example we played a lot of Zone in 2013, what we learned early in the season was we were a lot stronger on man D so we focused on that. On O our girls were moving the disc up-field a lot more and throwing and scoring the goals between themselves as opposed the male thrower to female receiver trend of 2013.

7th is pretty awesome, especially in terms of getting out of the first pool. Do you think it could have turned out any different by avoiding the loss to Portugal?

We never set expectations or goals before the tournament. We wanted to go out and execute our game plan and see how far that would take us with the limited preparation time. USA, Portugal, Russia, Japan, Australia and Switzerland are big names and our high seeding put a target on our backs. We started the Portugal game nervous and we paid for that. Having said that there were no “Easy” quarter finals. The top 4 of the other pool was just as scary. Beating Portugal would have given us the Philippines instead of Canada. It’s hard to tell what that match up would have been like.

Personally I was very happy to make it to the quarters but frustrated that we didn’t have a stronger performance against the North Americans.

Germany World champs, did you predict that one? Glad a European team did it, any sense it could have been you guys, or were they a stronger unit than the 2013 version?

I don’t think any of us predicted that one at the start of the week. I’m delighted for them they played an unreal game in the final and thoroughly deserved the victory. I think we would consider Germany, as well as Portugal and Sweden to be our peers in Europe, and seeing one of your peers win world’s obviously makes you imagine yourself there. In 2013 we played the Germans at Paganello (and won quite convincingly) but the Dubai German Team was light years ahead of the team we played then.

With the team and preparation we had this time I don’t think it we could have been there instead of Germany. Ireland are still a long way off but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for a future Irish team with the right preparation to take down a North American team.

Canada seemed to improve across the week, across several divisions, finding their sand legs perhaps? Do you think a European team could have taken down the US too?

I’m not certain but I believe the Canadians were from across the whole country so I imagine preparation as a team before hand must have been near impossible. They certainly had talent so I’d imagine it was the team gelling with every game they played. They also managed to get their semi against the US on the very windy day which I think equalised things a little bit.

Having played both the US and Canada I have to say I was much more impressed with the US strength and depth compared to the Canadians. The US defence was completely smothering and their O was clinical whereas with the Canadians we felt more room to manoeuvre and a closer contest.

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What’s next for Irish beach? 

Worlds will be back in two years. They’re changing the rotation so that it doesn’t clash with other international events. Location is TBC. I think lots of us would be up for giving it another bash in the mixed division.

Domestically, this year on Sept 18/19th we’ll have the first All Ireland Beach Championships which is being pushed by Irish Beach Ultimate. The idea is to get an event in the calendar and see some domestic beach take off the same way indoors has grown in recent years. The ideal situation is that by 2017 a lot more players will be playing and interested in Beach ultimate so we can send more teams with more depth.

And you, do you now look at grass again?

Warming up for my first grass practice after Dubai felt very strange. I still play grass and still love it, but beach has taken over as my number one. I will even be putting my body through a week long grass tournament this summer at EUC in Copenhagen playing with Spain mixed.

Being Spain based, why do Spanish teams not make it to worlds as often as other nations? 

The short answer is money. Spain had a team in every division at Euros which was in Spain, however for Dubai there were no projects put together. There was some interest but the cost of the tournament and the timing made it hard to get sufficient numbers. Instead in 2015 there’s a lot more focus on EUC. Spain are sending teams to 5 Divisions in Copenhagen.

What is the depth / strength of Spanish ultimate relevant to Ireland, or even Portugal?

I think the Spanish and Irish communities are very different. I would say Irish Ultimate is much more organized and growing faster. The university and schools / juniors set up in Ireland means that every year there are more and more players being trained by better and better coaches. In Spain there are no university clubs, and while school programs have really taken off in the last year (especially in Catalunya) the results of this work wont be seen for a while. Player growth in Spain is competitively slow.

Ireland has also benefited from being so close to the UK. Being able to travel to Tour every year is a great and inexpensive opportunity for Irish Teams to learn that you just can’t replicate here.

In terms of the quality of players there are some great teams here. Corocotta from Santander, Quijotes from Madrid and Mubidisk from Lanzarote are the three that dominate domestically and have put in some quality performances at European / Worlds level. One big difference is that with most Spanish teams the average age of players is a lot older than in Ireland. Because there is less organic growth in the community most clubs best players are over 30 and have been playing since their club was founded. This is exemplified by Spain having an Open Masters and Women’s Masters team at EUC.

I’m less familiar with Portugal. I know they have strong clubs like Bufa who play the big Beach tournaments in Europe helped along by some strong foreign players but domestically as far as I’m aware their club scene is growing but wouldn’t have the depth that Ireland and Spain have. I would liken them to Ireland Open in 2007, where the community was of a size that allowed a couple of very strong players to build a team that played and trained together to the point that the team was stronger than the sum of it’s parts.

How was Dubai in general?

Dubai was really strange. We stayed in an Airbnb penthouse apartment on the 90th floor of the Princess Tower. (The tallest residential building in the world) It was 15 minutes away from the fields with spectacular views of the marina and Palm Jumeirah. The jacuzzis on the 5th floor were put to use nightly. It’s a really strange mix of everything, cultures from all over the world, western consumerism and outlandishness expensive displays of wealth, because ‘why not?’ I don’t see myself going back there any time soon but I’m happy I got to experience it even for a little while.

Are you done with beach, or already looking at next WCBU, in 2017?

Definitely not done with beach. Word on the street is that the next worlds is in 2017. I’d very much like to be a part of that project in whatever way I can and I know Sam and some of the team are already into it. Here’s hoping it’s somewhere in Europe.

What else should I have asked you / would you like to add?

Our kit was sponsored by an Irish company, Nurse Jobs Ireland https://www.nursejobsireland.com/ so a big thank you to them.

I’d also like to thank the community for the support they showed us and the open team during the tournament. The messages of support are really touching and mean a lot.

See more from their blog here and their twitter @irlmixedbeach

 

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Beach Ultimate, Brian Boyle, Burrow Beach, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee

WCBU preview : Irish Open

By @SimonCocking, interview with Brian Boyle, Irish Open Captain

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Congrats on being captain ! How has the training been going?

Thanks Si! Really excited now with less than 2 weeks to go. Training has been going quite well despite the time of year. We’re all finished now in terms of training after 4 weekends together plus the trials, so things are looking good.

It must have been a bit tough having to train over the winter to peak for an event so early in the season, especially as it is on sand, winter sand, wet, cold!

I was not looking forward to winter training to say the least, but we were pretty fortunate overall. Temperatures were decent enough, and it hardly rained at all. Wind was a bit of a problem, but that’s to be expected any time of the year, especially on a beach. One day we had brilliant sunshine, but it was so windy we couldn’t play, so we did an indoor session instead.

What’s it been like training on Burrow Beach ? (One of our favourite beaches)

It’s a great spot that not too many people seem to know about. Good, flat beach for Ultimate that’s right on the DART line. Not too many shells or seaweed either so you can pretty much play straight away. Lots of friendly dogs running around though, which can be both adorable and annoying. Our last training session was actually in Rush, which is a great spot. Took a few minutes to clear it of shells but the sand was perfect. Ireland really does have some great beaches. Just a shame about the weather!

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Have you played any warm up tournaments with the team?

We were going to go to a tournament in England in January, but decided the cost probably didn’t outweigh the benefits, especially since conditions were essentially what we were playing in at home. We were going to go to Lisbon MOW with the Mixed team as well, but they had to cancel the Open division due to lack of interest. Would have been a great opportunity.

Six of us managed to make it over to Barcelona for an Iron Man tournament, which was a great experience and we took a lot from it. Playing in warm weather against opponents who were used to playing on a Beach showed us what we needed to work on for Dubai.

Barcelona

What are you hoping to achieve at WCBU?

As much as we can! It’s a great opportunity to showcase Irish Ultimate to other countries, and also play against some unique styles. When the tournament’s over I just want everyone to feel like they had the time of their lives and that the results went as well as they could for us. If everyone’s happy at the end of the week, I’ll consider my captaincy a success.

Which teams are you looking forward to playing?

I always love to play teams from outside of Europe since I rarely get to do it, and we’ve got a few of them in our group: Japan, India, Singapore and the Philippines. Australia is also going to give us a friendly before the tournament apparently, which will be a great way to prepare. Every team we play will be unique, and it’s always more special playing another nation while representing your own.

Have any of you been to Dubai / What do you think it will be like to play there?

I don’t think any of us have, besides maybe a lay over in the airport. I think it will be amazing to play Ultimate in a new part of the World and also see some of the amazing sights there. I’m sure the beach is immaculate as well, and the weather is going to be magnificent.

What’s your approach to the local laws?

Obviously we’re going to try to stay out of trouble. It seems to be a very forward thinking city, especially when it comes to western tourists. There’s even a Fibber Magees which we’ll have to investigate (and watch the Six Nations at). I’ve always thought sport and politics should be separate, so I’d be happy to play Ultimate in any country regardless of the laws there (within reason). After all, there are plenty of Irish laws I don’t necessarily agree with but I love playing Ultimate here.

Will you be off alcohol for the week?

Some of the lads will be, but I won’t be placing a ban on it. Obviously too much alcohol is detrimental to performance, so I’ll probably limit the amount we’ll be drinking during the actual tournament. People have invested a lot of money and time towards this tournament to have fun but also do well, so I’m sure we can meet a happy median. I plan to wet my own whistle during the tournament as it’s a great way to relax after a hard day, especially if you’re on a beach!

Predictions 

Who do you think will contest the final in your category?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Great Britain and The Philippines. GB because they are mostly Clapham players who know each other, as opposed to the USA who seem to be just a mix of great players who may not have much experience playing together. The Philippines because they live and breathe beach. If those teams meet in the semi finals, I think the USA are an easy bet to make it in.

Mixed?

Obviously Sweden looked great at ECBU, so I’d expect them to do well in Dubai as well. I’d have to say the USA will probably win though.

Where do you think / aim / hope to finish?

Obviously as high as possible, but without knowing too much about the other teams it’s hard to say. The Irish Open Beach teams in the past haven’t done very well, so I’d be happy to improve on past performances and get a few scalps.

Higher than mixed!?

The Mixed team have a lot more experience, and it’s hard to know if other countries’ strongest players will be on their Mixed team or on their Open/Women’s teams. The Mixed team was well ahead of the Open team at ECBU, but I think we have the talent to make that gap smaller.

What else would you like to add?

If you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to show us your support on social media or however you can. It could make all the difference. That and go out and play some Beach Ultimate! Come on Duboys!

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