Interview, Interviews, Ultimate Frisbee

BOKA, Barry O’Kane interviewed, GB legend from Limavady

By Simon Cocking, great interview with long time playing Ultimate legend Barry O’Kane. We first played with and against him around 1993/94, as fellow students, for Leed’s Uni’s Catch22 against Edinburgh’s Ultimate Team. He was always a great, intense, but easy going kinda guy. He then helped Irish Ultimate in the early days twice over. Initially by playing in the first ever Irish Ultimate frisbee tournament in March 1996 -> the first Dublin Open. He then also came through on his commitment to play for an Irish International team as and when we finally got a team together. This happened in 2000 when Barry played for the inaugural Irish Mixed team in the Heilbronn World Championships. After that Barry then went on to continue to have a fantastic playing career for GB and at club level. Here’s our interview with him.

What did you play before ultimate? 

Rugby was my main sport at School.  Though I also played a bit of Gaelic when I was very young and also enjoyed orienteering over the years.  After discovering Ultimate though I slowly became just an infrequent social participant in other sports.

Limavady! There were a few of you from there that played – did that help? What happened to them? How long did they play for? 

Yeah, there was a couple of good friends from Limavady who got really into Ultimate too. Stu & I played a lot in the Uni teams and later Vicky, Russel and Martin got really hooked. My (now) brother in law Declan also played for several years.  I think that had more to do with us all being in Edinburgh than any thing else though.

As far as I know Martin still plays in Singapore from time to time, but I think he’s the only one with that level of stamina 😉

If I remember right, your sister was at TCD, and briefly played with us for the initial TCD team ? 

Yep!

What did you make of the early Dublin scene? (I remember you and I having trouble getting any/ many of them to show up for the 2nd day of the Dublin tournament. 

Yeah, I remember the party shenanigans being a bigger deal than the on pitch activities.  Though, to be honest I was never disappointed in that!  A lot of the guys I met back then went on to become major players (both on and off the pitch) – so I guess it was the ideal way to start a club.

Scotland! What inspired you to start playing at Edinburgh, and then keep playing? 

I was too small for high level Uni rugby, and I stumbled on Ultimate when a friend dragged me along. It wasn’t until my second year that I really started getting into it though. Then I was lucky enough to join Sneeekys at Worlds in Street in ’95.  That really opened my eyes to what was possible for this sport, took me 15 years to miss another Worlds, I think.

Sneeekys! Great team, did you enjoy playing for them? There was an early worlds / clubs when you played for a team that came last did that help you in your subsequent summer worlds tournaments? 

Totally, though I think we came 2nd last, maybe.

You then played for Catch 22 a little? Was it good to play for better teams / to get better / as they got better too? 

Yeah, that’s when I started to play at a higher level and contribute usefully. Great bunch of guys, shame they had only 5 gags between them…

Ireland 2000 mixed team, you were part of the key hub of the team with Dec Moore – what was it like with Mikey’s more relaxed captaincy style? 

I have fond memories of that team and that tournament. A truly wonderful group of players.  I was still young enough to party really hard and run in the morning.  Declan was an inspiration and it was especially fun to play with him.  Though I do remember him getting pretty angry after some silly throwing decision I made – but then forgiving me when he realised I was still drunk from the night before.

And then what was good about that first Irish mixed team, and what, if anything was frustrating? 

It was a very inexperienced team and that could have been frustrating, but they were such a great bunch and everyone really improved over the season – so I found the experience thoroughly enjoyable.

Then over 2000’s you played for successful GB mixed teams, what were you doing right? 

Personally I suspect I was doing very little right, other than staying in shape and not throwing away too much!  I was lucky enough to lead some truly outstanding teams and play with so many great players.  The dedication, passion and talent that they brought is what made it so much fun, and gave us some success.

GB has got better and better over the last 20 years? Why do you think this has been? 

There is not one single reason.  Unless you count all the people who have given their spare time and energy to the sport over the years as one reason.  Those people have worked tirelessly to improve the organisation structure, competitive & club set up; along side the training, coaching and on pitch leadership to where we are now.  There is still a long way to go, but it is inspirational to see the numbers of talented, young athletes now playing and the strength of the leadership across the board today.

Irish Ultimate has also really impressed me over the years.  The transformation since those early days when only a handful of folk really knew how to play, and there was no organisation, is outstanding!

Club ultimate what has been your highlights? 

Too many to list, or even remember! Sneeekys at Edinburgh Uni with captain Irish Stu, Catch 22 in Vancouver and Rimini, Dough Boy when I was in London, LeedsLeedsLeeds in Hawaii and Australia, various Aussie teams when I was there, I could go on for ever… but the glory years of Fusion is probably my favourite, because training and winning with a Scottish team was just cool.

You’ve also been heavily involved in the admin side of BUF (whatever it’s called now) , what things did you do that worked / what didn’t / anything to do differently?

BUF, BFDF, UKU and UKUA covers some of the acronyms I have been involved with over the years. There was lots of things that we did that helped the sport grow and mature in the UK. Each small change is a step on the journey to building a larger, stronger organisation that can both grow and protect our unique sport. That process never ends, of course, and the current staff and Board continue to lead the way.

If I was to pick one thing that contributed most I was say when we were lucky enough to employ a full time CEO (Si Hill).  The lucky part was that we thought it would be many more years before the organisation could afford someone of his caliber as CEO and he was fooled into taking the administrator position.  From that point he has been the key stone on which a real sporting organisation has been built.

Favourite players you watched / played with and why? 

Anyone who had fun and worked hard!

GB now ranked #3 in the world for ultimate, fantastic – can it go any higher? If so, how / why? 

Yes, but first GB/UK has to walk the tightrope of growing the base of Ultimate while not taking focus away from improving the top.

I’ll be there shouting, waving my zimmer at anyone who slacks off and trying not to spill too much beer.

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DCU, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee

Ciaran Mac Gabhann, DCU end of season review

By @SimonCocking

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How did the season go for you team?

This year was a big year for the club. 2 years ago, we lost a huge percentage of our player base (only 5 of the players on the first team remained) and we had a bad year last year recruitment wise, so this year, emphasis was put on rebuilding more so than results.

That being said, this season went spectacularly for us. After a poor start at indoors (finishing 10th) we managed to break back into top 8 in open division (finished 7th, mimicking the result from 2 years ago), and 3rd in open Devs.

We also revived the women’s team, massive credit to Dom Smyth and Brian Henderson for that they did an amazing job as coach/women’s captain. As a result, we were able to send a team to every IV competition (as far as I remember), which hasn’t happened in the past few years.

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What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones this year?

Our performance on Saturday at open IVs was huge for the club. It showed just how far we have come in the space of a year. Unfortunately we couldn’t replicate them on Sunday, but we showed that we belong in the top 8 and we will be shooting for top 4 from now on at the very least. The women’s team managed to jump from 10th in Whacking Day to 6th(?) In Ladies IVs, another massive result for the club.

The team spirit we developed is another huge highlight. People were always looking to throw around, were happy to go to training or to just have a pint in the Nubar. It was great to see.

The lads performance at Devs was amazing too. We lost on universe to UCD and managed to beat NUIG and TCD both on universe after being 3 and 2 points down going into the cap, and we beat UCC too. The attitude on the pitch was inspiring and they took a well deserved 3rd place.

Personally, I’m happy with how I developed as a captain. The team who went to indoors with me will be able to tell you that I didn’t really know what I was up to. By the time we got to semester 2, I think I had a better handle on things.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

Told more jokes. Did you hear the one about the blind man who picked up a hammer and saw?

Looking back, sure, there’s always things we’d like to change. But I’ll try to pass on lessons learned to those in charge next year and make the club stronger in the long run.

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How did freshers fair go (way back when)? & Did you get many players who had played previously (at school)?

We had a great fresher’s week. I think we signed up around 150 people. There were 3 or 4 guys who had played before in secondary. I’m not sure if we’ve had any that played in secondary before.. No doubt down to the work done by Dom, Marko and everyone else in the schools circuit. Thanks guys! Keep them coming!

How many were still playing by the end of the year?

By the time open IVs came around, we had about 20-25 people still training weekly.

Was this the usual sort of level, or did you do anything different this year, which had more or less success in retaining / gaining new players?

Compared to last year, this was huge. We were able to host Whacking Day again this year. Last year, we started late, and our fresher’s day was so late that we missed the beginner tournaments. We couldn’t let that happen again, so for us, Whacking Day was key.

A lot of credit goes to Dom Smyth too. He coached again us this year, and created an atmosphere at training that made people want to be there despite some awful conditions at times. I know I haven’t thanked him enough for the work he put in, and hopefully we will see him again next year.

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited / positive about 2015/6?

I think we might only be losing 7 players, Dylan, Dan, Estelle, Hanna, Marcel, Matty and Kev. (If I’ve forgotten anyone, you should have come to training more :P) Brian just finished his masters, but he was talking about a PhD in DCU too so he might be still around. I’m not saying DCU Ultimate played a part in that decision, but I know he’d love to add an IV medal to his collection 😉

I am hugely excited for next year, and the years after that. Replicating the result from 2 years ago with a somewhat inexperienced team this years IVs means next year could lead to some silverware for the club.

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Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (Worlds / summer lge etc)

Yeah, a lot of the players still in Dublin have started training with Gravity. Ger and Purdy are doing a great job and I know the standard at week 1 training next September is going to be incredible. DCU are going to Sandslash too. Hanna, one of the Erasmus students, is Polish and she managed to get us in.

TP and Estelle are on the under 23s mixed team, Brian is on the senior mixed team and recent alumni Alan K is on the senior open team. I know they’ll do club and country proud, and DCU are behind them all the way!

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to international tournaments this summer?

Yeah, definitely! I remember doing assignments during WCBU with the project on one screen and the live feed of the matches on another. It wasn’t a very productive week for me, but dammit it was fun. Internationally, we are a strong threat, so exciting things are to come during the summer. Club results from Tom’s Tourney, and now just this weekend at Tour 1 show that we can battle with the best in Europe and I know the teams are hungry for gold!

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

I’ll be playing with Snatch this summer if they’ll have me, so hopefully I can nail down how to throw in the wind. There’s always aspects of my game I’m trying to improve, but I usually notice them on a training by training/tournament by tournament basis. I’m always looking to learn, and be better than I was during the previous point. One thing I’m trying to do long term is work on hucks, and add that extra threat to my game.

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

I’d just like to thank everyone in and out of DCU for making it an amazing year of frisbee. It was exhausting at times, but to see the club and the team we built over the year makes it all worthwhile. Thanks again guys! See you on the field 🙂 xo

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Galway, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee

Ronan Fogarty, NUIG, Galway end of season review

By @SimonCocking

mixed outdoors (1)

How did the season go for your team?

Overall I feel that NUIG had a very solid season maintaining the standards we have set for ourselves. Open indoor IV’s was slightly disappointing as a slow start meant that we couldn’t finish where we expected to going into the tournament. At women’s indoors a team made up of predominantly beginners put in several strong performances against much more experienced teams and showing the potential they have. Mixed indoors saw another solid display with the team finishing 7th and some of our beginner girls turning in strong performances. The conclusion of the indoor season saw our women’s team pull off a shock victory at devs showing just how far they have progressed in the year.

The outdoor season was, to me anyway, quite successful though results didn’t always reflect that. At Siege the NUIG team was used to try and get the developmentals team playing together along with one or two experienced heads. This team performed extremely well beating their seeding and learning some very important lessons along the way. Unfortunately this didn’t translate to devs where they failed to win a game but still showed that there will be some very strong players on the team for the future. Siege was also a major milestone for the NUIG womens team, and the club, as it was the first time a women’s team from Galway took part in any outdoor competition as far as I’m aware. The girls gave by far the best showing of any Galway team at the tournament, losing their only substitute to injury early in the second game they went on to iron man the remainder of the tournament and with three universe point losses no one got an easy game against the Galway girls.

Mixed outdoor IV’s saw the best outdoor tournament finish of the season with NUIG finishing 5th and only losing to eventual winners UCC, if I’m remembering that correctly. At open IV’s we cam 6th for the third year in a row, holding our seeding in the process. the team played well throughout the tournament but came away slightly disappointed not to have given a better showing of ourselves in the 5th/6th game against a strong Maynooth team.

Overall there were a lot of positives to take from the year and a strong base to build for the future from.

women siege

What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones too?

The performance of NUIG in both divisions of siege is undoubtedly a highlight for the team especially because most of the players across the two teams had less than a years experience. It’s also hard to look past the win at ladies devs, It’s always nice to get some silverware.

My own highlights would have to be playing at my first siege and playing a beach tournament in France (Yes but Nau) with the college.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

I definitely would have tried to have more of an emphasis on fitness at training as our fitness levels cost us towards the end of tournaments this year.

How did freshers fair go (way back when)? Did you get many players who had played previously (at school)?

We managed to take in a lot of beginners with about 70-80 at the first training session (though giving out free burrito vouchers could’ve had something to do with that). I don’t think any of them, bar some of the foreign lads who came over for the year, but they seemed to pick it up pretty quickly.

How many were still playing by the end of the year?

We managed to hold onto about 12 of our beginners.

Was this the usual sort of level, or did you do anything different this year, which had more or less success in retaining / gaining new players?

I think that this is quite a large number in comparison to the last couple of years anyway. I don’t think we did anything hugely different this year but I think more and more people are hearing about the sport before they get to college which makes our job easier. We also made a big effort to make them feel part of the team.

womens indoors

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited / positive about 2015/6?

We’re losing Nial McDermott, LJ Fitzgerald and Eoin Breen, three players with a lot of experience between them which will be a big loss, but I think the younger lads on the team are ready to step up next year and really make a mark on the team.

As for 2015/16 I’m always positive going into a new season and I think we have a lot of talent in the club to build a very strong team from.

Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (Worlds / summer lge etc)

Our outgoing captain Emma O’Callaghan will be playing with the senior womens team. We have LJ on the U-23 mixed team and Dorothee Driever will be on the Irish Junior womens team, we just won’t mention that she’s German.

As for everyone else hopefully they try and keep up some kind of ultimate over the summer and come back stronger in September.

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to international tournaments this summer?

Definitely, I’ll be following them as much as possible and hopefully we can get a few of the games streamed live as the Irish always put up a good fight against whoever they play.

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

I really want to get my throwing better over the summer so I’ll be doing a lot of it over the summer and in the main I just plan to try and keep fit so I can ht the ground running at the start of next year.

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

Just that I’m really looking forward to the next college year and that I’m really excited to see how Irish ultimate will grow in and out of colleges over the next few years.

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Interview, UCC, Ultimate Frisbee

Matthew Feely, UCC end of season review

By @SimonCocking

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How did the season go for you team?

I’ll just be talking about the open team here, the girls had a pretty impressive season and I wouldn’t be doing it justice talking about it!

The season didn’t end the way we wanted but you couldn’t say it wasn’t a successful year. For me, the enjoyment is at trainings. We train together each week and judging the year on one weekend would be silly. Everyone made an extra effort to push themselves and each other at training this year. We all had great craic off the pitch as well and didn’t wanna lose to each other which made things more competitive at training. It’s definitely been my favourite year in UCC.

Indoors

What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones too?

Hmm, Siege was a huge highlight for a lot of us. Our team had a mix of talent from very strong players to beginners so we felt no pressure to finish high, we just wanted to enjoy playing together. We had a great game against Gentle where everything clicked and our quarter against GB on Sunday morning was a great battle. Our semifinal at mixed outdoors was also really fun.

UCD’s deep game was unstoppable, I think they came down with everything in the air and we found ourselves having to break twice or three times to win. Our girls did a great job getting some D’s and moving the disc on offence which helped us a lot. Universe point was spicy enough, one of our players dropped two pancakes in the endzone but somehow caught a dodgy hammer while laying out.

My own highlights have more to do with training. In my first year people were strolling down 20mins late to training and we often didn’t have fitness because only two or three of us showed up. This year there was a huge buy in from the lads, we only had people late to the first two sessions of the year and had 12+ people at fitness each week. The lads really pushed hard at training too which made really fun and a pleasure to coach and play with them all year.

Our second team finishing in the top 8 at IVs was pretty special too! They were unlucky in two universe point games on Sunday but fought hard all weekend. It was awesome to have two UCC teams in the top 8, especially since college teams are getting more and more competitive each year.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

We sort of burned out after Siege and had a lot of injured players which made it tough to have a big build up to IVs. So I think I would have planned the season a bit differently and encouraged more gym sessions than fitness sessions especially before Christmas. Personally, I’d have focused more on the positives than negatives at training. I often assume that the positives speak for themselves and focus on what went wrong and how to improve.

C&S

How did freshers fair go (way back when)? & Did you get many players who had played previously (at school)

The development of the club is the most important thing each year. If you can ensure the club will go strong once you’ve left then you’ve done a good job. We put a lot of effort into recruitment and retention and we were very happy with the beginners this year. We got a few players from schools in Ballincollig alright. In the last two years, about half of our first team had started in school.

Without the work put in by people like Donal Murray and Fergus McAuliffe, UCC Open wouldn’t have had a competitive open team in the last two years. We also had one fresher who played in PE in Limerick with UL students. He said he came into college with ultimate as his new sport so UL must be doing a great job!

How many were still playing by the end of the year?

There are around 10 guys still playing.

Was this the usual sort of level, or did you do anything different this year, which had more or less success in retaining / gaining new players?

This has been the best recruiting year while I’ve been in UCC anyway. We made more of an effort this year to get to know loads of the beginners and have more parties and it worked really well. We also changed our approach to coaching the beginners so we could give them a large window for success while challenging the more athletic freshers and teaching proper ultimate.

Siege

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited / positive about 2015/6?

We’re losing three of our first team players next year but a lot of us are going into final year so we might not be around as much. I’m always excited about the next year! I’m also looking forward to just being a player next year. I was captain and coach the last two years so I think a new leadership will be great for everyone.

Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (Worlds / summer lge etc)

There will be seven players on the U23 open team and seven players (four guys and three girls) on the U23 mixed team who’ll be competing in London this July (there’s also two other UCC students on the mixed team who don’t compete or train with UCC). We also have six girls on the EUC women’s team who’ll be competing in Copenhagen at the end of July/start of August. There’ll be players competing at tournaments like Tour and Windmill with their club teams, Rebel Ultimate and Pelt Ultimate.

Cork Summer League is starting soon which draws a lot of UCC players too.

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to international tournaments this summer? 

Definitely! Anyone who knows me knows I’ve a slight obsession with ultimate so I’ll be keeping a close eye on national teams this summer. Ireland always manages a few aul upsets or scares so it’ll be great to see what Ireland can do this year.

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

I’ve U23 worlds coming up so I’m trying to throw everyday between now and then along with two gym sessions and at least one fitness session each week. I’ll also be training with Ballincollig Ultimate twice a week. I’m trying to push myself harder as well. I feel that this U23 team is better than our last one and it’s sometimes easy to rest on that but we won’t be playing them at worlds, obviously. We’ll be playing other countries who probably have had a similar improvement so it’ll be important to get the most out of myself in the next few weeks.

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

Hmm.. The most important thing for college teams’ leadership is to think about the next few years as well as the year they’re in charge. A really successful year is great but a really successful program is much better. I think the desire to win can overshadow this sometimes but I feel it’s important to think about the future of the program as well.

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DIT, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee

Aidan Kelly, DIT end of season review

By @SimonCocking

How did the season go for you team?

This season was a bit of a mixed bag for DIT. From September we immediately pushed as hard as we could to prepare for Indoor IV’s, and it paid off dividends when we managed to finish in the top four. With our new coach Darragh Herd, we managed to create an effective game plan that saw us beat both Maynooth and Trinity on the way to a semi against a strong UCC team. Our outdoor season was ultimately (lolz) disappointing, despite a strong showing at The Siege winning 5 from 7 games and finishing 5th at Developmentals, we couldn’t get numbers for Mixed and finished 9th at Open IV’s.

What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones too?

The biggest highlight, for me, was beating Maynooth at Indoors. We have an extremely strong and healthy rivalry and they are a team I’ve always admired and somewhat aspired to try and turn DIT into. We had played them in two friendlies the week before and they beat us by 4-5 both times, but we still felt like we could take them on the day. The game itself is a big of a mad blur for me, we went 3-0 down scarily quick and managed to take it to 3-3 not long after. From there I think we managed to trade it out, until the defining moment of the game where our wall-D became unstoppable. Maynooth must have played 80-90 passes but couldn’t find a gap to score, it was outrageous. Then, our first year, Tadhgh Deevy got a point-block with one of his ridiculously lanky arms before we turned around and scored in two passes. We won by a single point and the positive atmosphere made us feel invincible going into our next game against Trinity where we went 5-1 up before winning 10-7 or so.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

It’s hard to really pinpoint what went wrong on our season, being honest. Our outdoor training situation was a bit of a joke for the majority of the year. There are brand new all-weather pitches in Grangegorman that were ‘finished’ in November, but STILL aren’t allowed be used because of some silly dispute with the local residents in the area. So, we didn’t have any real outdoor trainings until semester two, where we had to trek out to Monkstown (very South Dublin) and train in the early evening. This was in no way ideal as we would train at6:30pm with most people finishing lecturers at 6pm. I’m not sure if there was anything we could have done, per say, but it was certainly not a help to our preparations/development. It also didn’t help that every training we had was in perfect, windless conditions, and then IV’s ended up being a classic Santry special, haha.

How did freshers fair go (way back when)? & Did you get many players who had played previously (at school)

Freshers week went well. We had about 70-80 beginners at our first training, but (this whole interview is going to look like a giant rant against our training facilities, haha), our developmental trainings are comprised of an hour and a half in a small hall, followed by an hour on a astro that’s less than half a pitch in size. We couldn’t handle the amount of people who came to weeks 1-3 and, despite it naturally dropping as the weeks went on, we can’t help but feel we had some missed potential.

Other than that, we managed to recruit some players with fantastic potential. One of our first years was on the cusp of the Junior Open team, which as everyone knows is no easy feat these days. We was even lucky to have gotten the experience of playing with the team at The Siege, where he was the only college player and only one playing less than two years on the squad. We also have a number of enthusiastic and athletic beginners who will only continue to get better next term.

In terms of players who have experience outside of college, we were somewhat lucky to have added two Ireland internationals in Tadgh Deevy (U17s, Juniors) and Martin ‘Juno’ Kelly (U23’s, Open Beach) as well as Joey Staunton, who took up the sport with Jabba a few months prior.

How many were still playing by the end of the year?

I think we had 10 beginners play Open IV’s, with nine of them on DIT2 and one on the first team. I find that the Christmas break is the most difficult part in keeping first year players, as the massive gap in training can allow them to fall out of any routine they have and lose interest. We’re trying to work hard in keeping beginners by allowing them to get involved as much as possible as soon as early on in the year as we can.

Was this the usual sort of level, or did you do anything different this year, which had more or less success in retaining / gaining new players?

It’s probably the average, alright. Slightly up on last season, but maybe slightly down on the year before. I don’t think we did anything different, as such, but were just lucky to have a small core group of enthusiastic young players. There are 3-4 lads in the same course that come to training each week, that really helps. Sometimes it really is down to a bit of luck.

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited / positive about 2015/6?

We’re losing some of our core players this summer. ‘Mad’ Tom Healy, Steve Gogo, Juno and Joey Staunton are all finishing up and heading out into the big bad world (or dole line) and with a number of us entering final year, development is of course key once again. It’s looking like one of our old boys, Tom O’Hora will be back doing an undergrad, which will be huge added experience for possibly the next four years.

Next season will be an interesting one. I think a lot of us had high ambitions for this year and were hit hard when things didn’t come to plan. It might be a case of going into it with no unnecessary pressures and just enjoy our Ultimate. That way when we have our goal medals come next May at IV’s in Limerick, it’ll be even sweeter. 😉

Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (Worlds / summer lge etc)

A fair number of our players had individual successes, in terms of making international teams. As I’ve already said, one of our first years (Andrew Devenney) was extremely close to making Juniors, while two of us made the Open Beach team that went off to Dubai back in March. Two more, Tadgh Deevy and Kuddlezzz, as well as alum Johnny Anger were on the provisional Open U23 squad, before making the Mixed U23’s a few weeks back. I’ll also be heading to London to Manage/Coach the Mixed team, which is pretty exciting.

In terms of club – We really push our players to train as much as possible to get a different flavour of Ultimate from other coaches/teams. A lot of our lads will be playing with Gravity, Jabba and new club, Uproar, while one of out firsy years is a Tipp boy and hopes to train with Rebel for the summer.

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to international tournaments this summer? 

Of course! I’m a big Frisbee nerd when it comes to Irish Ultimate, so I’ll be following closely. And, as I said, I’ll be going to London with the Mixed team so I’ll be able to help support the Open lads too.

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

Just play as much as possible. In terms of my game, there’s nothing I want to pinpoint, exactly, but I do plan on improving my conditioning throughout the summer, so I don’t get injured as soon as Indoor season comes back!

I just finished playing the Mixed season with Gravity, where I feel I really was able to fine tune my game and learn new things from playing with different people, and I’m about to jump into the Open season with a new club called Uproar, who are essentially a reformation of Hammertime and 66. We hope to be able to continue the development of Ultimate in rural Leinster while also being able to compete at a high level within Irish Ultimate.

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Interview, UCD, Ultimate Frisbee

Conor Hogan, UCD end of season review

By @SimonCocking

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How did the season go for your team?

I’m just going to talk about our Open team here, because I could go on for days about each of our club’s teams otherwise! Our season was pretty good, but yet we finished with no silverware, which is a little disappointing I guess. Our results at outdoor events were better than at indoor events, which is fair seeing as we focus more on skills improvement at our indoor sessions rather than tactics and as a result we take Indoor IVs less seriously – something which can rub other teams up the wrong way unfortunately, but there is no intentional disrespect with our approach to indoors. We finished 7th at Open Indoor IVs, so after coming 3rd the year before, it was a big step back. At Cork Open we faired all right, but tired heads and legs on Sunday, and a few injuries, saw us finish 8th. At the Siege we played really well in almost all of our games – we won all our games bar one, losing to UL, who in fairness deservingly walloped us. We came 5th overall, the highlight finishing team from outside of GB and Limerick.

Our focus was always on Open IVs though, and in years gone by we’ve had average regular seasons only to turn it on when it matters most. We had two very shaky performances in the group stages on Saturday against QUB and NUIG, but we got our heads sorted and got some revenge on UL after our loss to them at Siege. We had a relatively easy quarterfinal vs. UCC2, and then we played UCC1 in a really good dogfight. We came out on top and would face Trinity in the final. At this point we were down a few heads through injuries, but in fairness to Trinity they played to their strengths in the final and were deserved winners. It’s a real pity that we finished 2nd this year, because I think we could have done the repeat if myself, Fergie and Bermie hadn’t been injured, but it was still a brilliant year for us.

What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones too?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF1LHw2zGS4 – this could help paint a picture of our highlights!

The club highlights included our two Devs teams reaching the final of their respective divisions; the Ladies team returning to the Outdoor final for the first time since 2012; the Ladies coming third and winning spirit at Indoor Ladies IVs; having three teams at Mixed IVs the most from any college, with UCD Y winning the plate; hosting Mixed Indoors (the first tournament we’ve hosted in 3 years); having 2 teams at Open IVs, both with large squads – there were a lot of positives this year on the pitch!

Highlights for the first team include beating Ranelagh at Siege, beating UL and UCC at IVs because these are two of our top three rivals, and probably our comeback vs QUB at IVs too – those lads in the north have been doing great stuff to build up a strong club and they gave us an almighty shpookin’ in the first half! Returning to the Open IVs final again this year was great obviously too, even though we came up short.

Some of my own highlights are mainly just from a coaching point of view. It’s awesome to see teams and individual players that you train go out and boss it. The Devs team is made up entirely of lads I was coaching this year and last year with Liamo, and to see them throwing really nicely weighted hucks or “skying peasants” is pretty much the reason I gave up my Tuesday evenings for the last two years. I think everyone’s favourite highlight this year was Joey skying about 6/7 people to get an upwind break against UL at IVs.

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Another highlight for the club was being awarded the IFDA College of the Year award at the 2014 IFDA Awards Ball. While this was for our 2013/14 season, it was still a great moment for the club and a great way to round out our first semester of the 2014/15 season. The college game in Ireland is forever increasing in standard across the board, so it was a great achievement for our club to win this award. On the same night, I received the College Player of the Year award. It was great to be nominated in this category to start with and then to win it was awesome too, as the other nominees all had great seasons themselves.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

With the players we had, we probably could have given Open Indoor IVs a good bash, but the times we’re given for training indoors don’t agree with everyone’s timetable meaning its hard to train as a team and so we just wing it! It would be nice to focus on this tournament for next year perhaps. Other than that, it’s hard to say really. We had a pretty good year across the board so I don’t think there’s much I’d change, no.

How did freshers fair go (way back when)? And did you get many players who had played previously (at school)?

We have a two-part recruitment drive: part 1 is in September. At Fresher’s Week we have 4/5 days of recruitment, which is where we get the bulk of our new recruits (and a few Americans!). Part 2 is “Refreshers Day” in semester 2 and we normally get some new bodies to practice from this too.

Generally speaking, we recruited pretty well this year and retained a good number of guys and girls. Some had played a bit before all right – a few Irish U17s & Juniors were in the ranks. The great thing about the online presence of Ultimate at the moment is that more and more clips are going viral so more and more people have at least heard that Ultimate is a sport by the time that they’ve met us. Our American counterparts are doing great things to get consistent media exposure and it’s getting well recognised over here too.

How many were still playing by the end of the year?

We had something like 30/40 beginners at our first few sessions in September/October (it’s worth noting that it’s minimum €15 to join clubs in UCD, so convincing people to join is getting more difficult as this rises – it was €10 last year). That said we retained about 15 or so beginners throughout the year – including those from Refreshers Day. The Ladies side of the club have been recruiting really well too in the last few years and I think they retained similar numbers.

Was this the usual sort of level of retention? Or did you do anything differently this year, which had more or less success in retaining/gaining new players?

This is pretty good for us to be honest. By the time we get 3 or 4 sessions with the beginners in September/October, it’s already Week 6/7 of college, so mid-terms and assignments are lurking around and a lot of people will stop coming to sessions to focus on college work (the fools!) and then some just aren’t bothered coming back, which is a shame. We try to focus on having game heavy and fun trainings for our first few sessions after teaching the basic throws and that because that seems to be what peaks people’s interest. There has been a decent focus on having more social interaction outside of training these last two years and that has proved pretty valuable too. We’re careful not to just promote ourselves as a party club though and that the sport is as important as having the craic. Getting beginners to a few beginner tournaments is great for keeping them around too; Edinburgh and Whacking Day/Trinitea Party have been the tournaments that we’ve attended most often in years gone by and those who attend these tournaments are much more likely to stick around than those who don’t.

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited/positive about 2015/16?

We’re losing a lot of our first team squad. We had about 18/20 players in our first team training squad this year, but only 13 of those are still in UCD next year, and about 4/5 of those are going to be on Erasmus or on work placement. So it will be a great chance for this year’s beginner group to push on and to get integrated into the first team.

Despite a lot of our top players and leaders leaving, we’ll still have a pretty strong core of players. I think it would be stupid enough to dismiss us as title contenders again next year, but it won’t be the same UCD as the last few years. We’ll have to re-think our game plans (as we had to do this year when Tuffy graduated), and we’ll probably come back with different structures next year too. I won’t be coaching again next year, at least not in a Head Coach role, so there is definitely scope for new ideas and I’m pretty excited to see how we deal with these new challenges. It could be totally hit and miss, or it could be exactly what we need to win IVs again.

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Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (World/Summer League, etc.)

Yeah, we’ve a few players involved in national teams: Michelle Mac Lennan (a first year player) is playing on the Junior Women’s team; Conor McCarthy, Ferdia Rogers, Owen Binchy, and Stephen Jones are all playing on the U23 Open team; Lizzie O’Sullivan is playing on the Senior Women’s team; Aine Gilheany, Deirdre Kavanagh, and myself are all playing on the Senior Mixed team.

Most of our players are affiliated with different clubs too, and there seems to be a decent contingent looking to volunteer at different tournaments around Europe (Windmill, Dublin’s Golden Cup, etc.) so there will be UCD heads about the place this summer all right!

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to International tournaments this summer?

Absolutely! The social media coverage from most teams in the past has been great, and occasionally we can enjoy streamed games and live updates on Facebook or Twitter. So I imagine, there will be a few days in the office that I’ll be bashing the refresh button and sitting here like a nervous wreck.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the U23 Open and Junior Open teams get on. Doc did great stuff with the last Junior Open team, and this one is fairly stacked with the best young talent from around the country, so I expect they’ll do quite well. The U23 Open team then is stacked with some of the best college and club players we have, so it will be really interesting to see how they fair this time around – Worlds is on in London, so it’s only a hop over on the plane if anyone can go support the Lads (and Mixed) team!

Then of course there’s EUC and I’m fairly pumped to get over there and give it a bash. There will be 3 Irish teams over there so the craic will be mighty and I think all three teams are set to have some great performances.

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

Stay fit. Since April 2014, I’ve been fairly riddled with injuries. If there’s one thing I can do between now and EUC (and AIUC!) it’s stay fit/not injured. If anyone has a spare hamstring or patella tendon lying around your house that you aren’t using, let me know!

As well as that, it’s going to be a case of practice my throwing. You should never stop practicing and refining your throwing, even if you’re super comfortable with how they are at the moment.

And lastly, I’ll be doing a good bit of speed work. Being injured on-and-off for a year doesn’t help with a first quick step so I think I’ll focus on getting this sorted too before Euros.

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

I guess you could have asked how UCD got to the point we’re at today. Since I joined in September 2010, there has been Trojan work done by a number of people to build up the club, so without these guys we wouldn’t have a hope of being where we are – the likes of Conor Casey, Emer Staunton, Liam Fletcher were all instrumental in the recent development of the club, and so too were our coaches through the years Fiona Mernagh, Ian French, Darron Costello and Kev Timoney. This is all obviously on top of what came before that in the 00s. So here’s to next year and long-live Chilli-O!

#UCD5lyf #skaty

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Belfast, Interview, Queens, Ultimate Frisbee

Ben Mathews, Queens Ultimate. End of season reflections

By @SimonCocking

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How did the season go for you team?

We had a great start to our season with 6th place finish at indoor IVs and taking some big scalps for us in the likes of UCD and NUIG along the way. It was nice for myself seeing the team mixing it in the top 8 of a tournament. It really is where we belong with the talent we have on the team. We were feeling positive going into outdoor IV having had a good season of practice under our belts with our new coach Marco but unfortunately this didn’t reflect our final placing at IVS as we finished 10th. I don’t think this properly reflected our performance and had it not been for a little bit of bad luck we could have found ourselves in a much higher position.

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What were the team’s highlights, and your own ones too?

Beating UCD at indoor’s was a massive moment for us as we showed that we really were able to mix it with the best teams in the country and we came fairly close to repeating the feat at outdoor’s only to have UCD show their superior experience in playing at a high level to take hold of the game. For me a highlight was seeing players who had only been playing a couple of months becoming some of the best players on our team. The likes of Jack Gibson. Patrick McGeough  and Aodhan McKenna became really important parts of our lineup, these are all players that worked really hard over the course of the season and it was fantastic to see them matching up well with some of the best players in the country.

Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

Fitness, fitness and more fitness. This is one area that my game fell down immensely and I think  it was a problem with our team as a whole as we were able to give UCD a good game at the start of IVs but come the last game against DIT we were barely able to put out a line that could stand on the line never mind chase after our man. I probably also would have went to more tournament parties, I was too focused on not having to play hungover but I think I missed out on a massive part of playing college ultimate.

How did freshers fair go (way back when)? & Did you get many players who had played previously (at school)

Freshers was really positive this year, we were really lucky to get some players who were friends of U20 captain Jack Lynch and they proved valuable in the early part of the season with Ciaran Ferris only just missing out on making the U20 squad this year. Players like Gibbs and Amy Kyle slotted right into the team mentality and are great people to have in the club.

Was this the usual sort of level, or did you do anything different this year, which had more or less success in retaining / gaining new players?

Queen’s is still a relatively small club compared to other Irish University clubs and this is reflected in our intake of new players. I think this is because of a lack of available resources to the club such as indoor training slots and floodlit pitches during the winter. I think for future years the club needs to focus more on the social side of ultimate while still training at a high level which is pushing even the strongest players to their limits.

How many of your first team players will you be losing? Are you excited / positive about 2015/6?

There’s a few of our first team leaving us this year. The likes of Josh McCann, Aodhan McKenna and Pete Gaston will be sorely missed. While I’m sure they’ll be happy to get rid of myself and fitness coach Joe Brennan. There’s a really solid and rapidly improving team staying for next year and I’m sure under the Presidency of Ellie and with a  new captain in the form of Dan Finlay they will only build on the successes of this year.

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Will many of your team be playing in the summer somewhere? (Worlds / summer league etc)

Myself and Emily McCabe have been lucky enough to be selected for the U23 Mixed team going to world’s in London with Emily also being selected for the Senior Women’s teams going to EUC! I’m sure everyone else will training intensely with Belfast Ultimate as they travel to tour and prepare for All Irelands.

Will you follow the progress of the various Irish teams going to international tournaments this summer?

It’s become a great part of summer following the different Irish teams, especially when there’s some for of live feed showing their games. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Senior Mixed team get on in Copenhagen. I know they’ve been training really hard and have a lot of ambition so it would be great to see them come home with a medal.

Anything you plan to do to improve your own game over the summer?

It was pointed out to me by a certain coach from Cork that ‘players carrying extra weight won’t hit the speeds they should do’ so I will be focusing a lot on getting in better shape. I need to work a lot more on my decision making as well, I’m going to be practicing taking the easy pass a lot more rather than always trying to make the perfect incisive pass every time. So hopefully by world’s I’ll be a lean mean non-turning handling machine

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

Think I’m good. It’s been a pleasure.

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