DCU, Interview, Ultimate Frisbee

Ciaran Mac Gabhann, DCU end of season review

By @SimonCocking


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.


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.


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.


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

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.

Open IVs

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.

Interview, UCC, Ultimate Frisbee

Matthew Feely, UCC end of season review

By @SimonCocking


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Belfast, Interview, Queens, Ultimate Frisbee

Ben Mathews, Queens Ultimate. End of season reflections

By @SimonCocking

image (1)

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.

image (4)

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.

image (2)

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.

image (3)

Interview, Ultimate Frisbee, US Ultimate

David Leiwant, Ultimate Frisbee cofounder, and his take on the evolution of the game

By @SimonCocking

Really happy to bring you another interview with one of the founders of Ultimate Frisbee. David Leiwant participated in those initial scrimmages in the car park back in 1969. He also then went on to play a vital role in the development of the rules for Utimate between 1969 and 1981.

1973 CHS Varsity Team, image courtesy of http://www.ultimatehistory.com/founders/Pg/chs.html

I played American football until my sophomore year of college.  I also ran track until the end of my sophomore year of college.  I played recreational volleyball until about 1992. In the winter of 1969-70, the Frisbee team had a  volleyball team in a recreational league at the high school and I played on it.  I also played recreational basketball until 1976.  I joined the International Frisbee Association in the Spring of 1968.  In 1992, I was having serious back problems and the doctor told me not to do anything that involved twisting my torso.  Goodbye Ultimate and volleyball.

Early days, 150gram discs!

Not only did we play with 150g discs, in the early years we tried playing in the dark with “Moonlighter’ pro discs, which were even lighter.  They were unstable, and didn’t glow brightly enough to be readily seen in the dark.  The 150g discs were the most stable discs we had, so we were comfortable with them.

The heavier discs were much better and much more stable.  People with better throwing skills were rewarded by the heavier discs.  The heavier discs made it easier to throw long, and to also throw into the wind.  The heavier discs did help with evolving tactics, no question, but the more people who played, and for a longer time, also changed the tactics.  By the middle 1970’s, teams were developing more complex zone defenses.  Also, teams were setting up offensive plays and an entire offensive scheme.  The introduction of the throwing count also sent a rocket to the offenses.  A thrower couldn’t just stand for a minute looking for a receiver to throw to.  The offense had to be ready to get the disc off more quickly.

Why 7 players aside?

I didn’t really play in many games with 20 or 30 players to a side.  However, when I played my first game in April 1969, there were about 6 players per team.  There was no rule about only one defender guarding the thrower.  At one point, 3 or 4 defenders surrounded the thrower, then the offensive players moved close, then the rest of the defense joined the mob.  There were about 10 people surrounding the thrower.  The game stopped.  Afterwards, Joel Silver and Jon Hines introduced a new rule; only one defensive player could guard the thrower.

I did play some games on a present day size field with about 10 players per team, and it worked, but the teams were unwieldy, and people would get in each others way.  The high school parking lot that we played on from the fall of 1969 through the time we all graduated was short, and oddly shaped.  No more than 6 or 7 players a team was practical on such
a field.  When we played pick up games on the parking lot, we tried to include everyone who wanted to play, which could be anywhere from 5 players per team to about 9 players per team.  I don’t remember exactly when or why the number 7 was chosen, but it seems to work well.

I tried rugby for about 3 weeks in college.  Ultimate never had a scrum or tackling.  However, when the CHS team played Princeton in the spring of 1972, most of the Princeton players were also rugby players.  They didn’t have much skill with a disc, but they delighted in physical play.  The rules at the time permitted a player to run over another player if the first player was going after the disc.   We were surprised at the physical nature of the game, but some of us started to retaliate in kind, hard.  By the end of the game, we had given as good as we got.

How did the rules evolve?

I was involved in the evolution of the rules from the 1969 until about 1981.  It was a consensus product, initially with the CHS players, with input from other players, and when there were a number of college and club teams, there would be an annual captain’s meeting.  I think all the rule changes have been good.  I’ve never had any complaints.

I stopped playing seriously in my last year of law school, Spring 1981. I had played for Columbia High School from 1969 through 1973, co-started the Yale team in 1973 and played there until 1977, played for a club in 1977-78, and played at the University of California, Berkeley from 1978-1981.  After that, I mostly played on a recreational level. However, in 1990, I played for the US mixed Masters team at Worlds in Oslo.  My back wouldn’t permit me to play very much, but I ended up running substitutes.

It was surprisingly easy to get people to play at Yale.  In fact, the year after I graduated, the school put Ultimate in as an intramural sport.

What was your take on how Ultimate was played outside the US?

I only played against foreign teams in 1990.  I was a spectator at the 1983 Worlds in Goteburg, Sweden, and saw some of the early play against foreign teams.

I saw some Canadian teams play US teams in the early 80’s.  The Canadians had the disc skills, but weren’t as athletic, and had trouble competing. At the first World Championship, 1983 in Sweden, the US men (Rude Boys) played a short exhibition against the Swedish men at halftime of a Swedish division 2 football match.  The US scored on every possession, and the Swedes could not score.  The US had better disc skills, better strategy and tactics, and more athleticism.

After that, I figured it would take two years for a good foreign team to become competitive. In 1990, at the Oslo World Championship, the foreign teams had greatly improved, but they were still barely competitive with the US men.  By then, the difference was the number of Ultimate players in the US and the intense domestic competition.  In the Masters’ Competition, however, the Canadians had caught up to our US team, and we barely beat them in the finals.  I never saw any new and challenging ways to play the game from the foreign teams.

Why self refereeing?

Self refereeing was originally just realistic.  There was no one to referee.  Everybody who knew anything about the game was playing.  However, the 1st Published Rules did state that a referee was permissible.  Indeed, in the first intercollegiate game, Rutgers-Princeton, November 1972, I was a senior in high school and was the referee.  I am attaching the New York Times story of the game.  In the box score, the Times mutilated the spelling of my name.  In December 1972, there was a Rutgers-Princeton rematch at Princeton. I refereed along with my teammate Ed Levy, now a plastic surgeon.

However, as the CHS Class of 1972 (Irv Kalb, Ed Summers, Larry Schindel, Joe Barbanel, etc.)  spread the game to other high schools and to colleges, the CHS players felt that it was important to not have referees.  I and others felt that having referees would encourage players to foul deliberately, hoping the refs would miss the foul.  We wanted a game of honor, where players would occasionally call fouls on themselves, and where there was trust among the players that fouls were honestly called.  It would be up to the players to play the game correctly. The problem became what is the result if an entire team has a bad attitude, makes bad calls, and disputes every call against them.  In one sense, the result would be ostracism, casting that team out of organized competition.  But what if the team is in the US finals!  Bringing in observers was an excellent idea and it seems to be working.

I hope the system of self called fouls and observers is robust enough to survive in high pressure games.  I don’t like referees.  I was a basketball referee and a baseball umpire in my younger days.  Referees don’t see so many fouls and make many mistaken calls, as we definitively know thanks to instant replay.  In the US college basketball championship between Duke and Wisconsin last Monday, the refs blew an extremely important out-of-bounds call late in the game.  They reviewed some instant replays, but did not see the replay in which the ball went off the hand of a Duke player, so they gave the ball to Duke.  This effectively made the difference between Duke winning and losing.  I hope that an Ultimate player in a similar situation would say, “I touched the disc last”.  In fact, I have seen that happen.

Similarly, I was watching an professional baseball game last night where a defensive player made it appear that he had caught the ball on the fly, when it actually short hopped into his glove.  The umpires missed it completely.  I’d rather have Ultimate players call the game honestly, than give the players incentive to cheat.

Growth of ultimate versus losing it roots?

I was overjoyed that there were teams from Africa and Asia as the BUSA.  When I first played Ultimate in 1969, there were perhaps 30 people who had ever played. (I’m attaching a June 1969 newspaper article Joel Silver wrote about Ultimate, before it was called Ultimate). Now there are millions of Ultimate players all over the world.  Wow!

I agree with Dan Roddick that perhaps it would be good for Ultimate to keep its alternative sensibility.  Even now, I hear random people say Ultimate players are marijuana smoking hippies. The stoners need a sport to play, too. No refs, limited coaching, playing just for the love of the game without much if any financial support, and being true to the spirit of the game make Ultimate unique.  That having been said, boy, would I like to see Ultimate in the Summer Olympics before I die.  I can live without it, though.

Dominick Smyth, IFDA, Interview, Ireland, Sport, Ultimate Frisbee

Dominick Smyth interview, part two

By @SimonCocking

Second part of the interview, see part one here 

work 2

What then made you want to set up Dublin Youth Ultimate?

I love the sport and have got so much out of it over the years.  I would like to see the sport grow and see more people playing and enjoying what it has to offer.  I used to get frustrated that, try as I might to encourage other players to help spread the sport, they either didn’t have the time or inclination.  It took a while but I finally opened up to the idea that instead of putting my energy into getting annoyed, I could instead put it into getting people playing.  And thus Dublin Youth Ultimate was born.

At the top level our goal is to get more people playing, enjoying and competing in the sport.  Below that we also want to raise the awareness and profile of the sports existence.  If we go to a school and work with 25 kids, we can expect about 15% of them to get involved with playing again (the others may enjoy it, but they are either playing 3 other sports or have no interest in joining a team).  Instead of ignoring the other 85%, we want them to go home and tell their family and friends that they played a new sport with a Frisbee but it wasn’t really for them.

In time, we hope this leads to Jo Bloggs leaving work on Friday with the following conversation:

Jo – “Have a good weekend everyone.  I’m off to play a competition.”

Colleague – “Oh yeah, what’s the competition”

Jo – “2nd round of the All-Ireland Ultimate League”.

Colleague – “Ultimate?  Nice.  I played that in school a few times but never really got in to it.  Best of luck.”

After years of “You play what?  Does that have a dog?”, I hope everyone can agree this new conversation will be a lot nicer.


Has it developed in any ways you didn’t expect it to?

Not necessarily ways I didn’t expect, but definitely at speeds I didn’t expect.  4 years in and the Schools Ultimate League already has Open, Girls and Mixed divisions; we run an annual event in Kilkenny for schools in south Leinster and this year we will be adding the Naas Cup, the Lucan Cup and Monaghan Mixer.  We ran a camp in January 2014 and a juniors club over the summer as well.

All of these were in the plans and part of our targets but they have all come about a lot sooner than I would have expected.  The knock on effect is that I am continually having to figure out what comes next.  What is possible and what can we make happen.  Current ideas include:  Kildare League, North Leinster Cup, outdoor events in Spring and Autumn, junior clubs in different areas around Dublin, All-Ireland Juniors, taking a juniors club team overseas – perhaps UK Junior Nationals.


Ranelagh, the highs, the less appealing bits? How you deal(t) with the challenge of explaining, yet again, to the latest tyro, keeping the force, not throwing throws they haven’t got?

Being involved with Ranelagh has been great.  A structured group where attendance at training is required; clear team goals and playing structure; high expectations of everyone’s approach, attitude and commitment to the club; membership based on attitude, not personality or friendships.  I just wish I could have gotten involved when I was 23.  Would have added a nice structure to my ultimate career.


As I’m sure anyone could tell you, I have never been hesitant about explaining things to people.  With the buy in required for Ranelagh everyone is encouraged to share knowledge, push each other harder and help make the team as a whole better by improving the abilities of the individuals.  As a result, I felt comfortable talking with team mates about skills concepts, body positioning or anything else that came up.



Your favourite players to play with / dream team

So many people have played with immense skill over the years that it would be impossible to try pick out some of them. Instead, here are some people that left an impression on me for different reasons.

Del Robinson. Albany Summer League, New York.

The only man I’ve met who can play a great game and give play-by-play commentary at the same time.

Is this Del Robins, the English guy from Leamington Spa, who grew his own frisbee golf course, used to play for STAN, and top UK disc golf player for 2 decades?

Del Robinson – no, he’s American.  I met him playing in Albany when I was working at camp.  No connection to UK ultimate.  Heavily involved in the ultimate community in Albany either as a league captain or organising a team to travel to competitions.  In the middle of a point he would be saying something like “John has the disc looking to throw but his cuts are covered.  Dump is probably best option and then a swing – Anna looks in a good position to receive that.  Yep, there it is, now she can continue it up the break side to Del and he has Rich in the end zone for the score.”  I kid you not, that was how he would play.

Miguel Pratt. Patatas Bravas, Spain

A beach ultimate legend who not only combined the urge to play well and party hard but also fully respected everyone else’s right to party in their own way.

Ru Veitl. Woodies, Germany.

Full complement of skill, athleticism, spirit and personality without ever compromising his individuality.

David ‘Bob’ Girvan, Smurfs, Dublin.

Loved the sport straight away and wanted to learn.  Shame there wasn’t an environment to keep him involved at the time.  Had the ability to take on all coaching given, implement it in the next point, decide for himself if it was beneficial or not and then incorporate the new skill as part of his game.

Who is / was this guy? Did he stop playing too?

David Girvan? He was a school kid that played around 2004.  Great kid.  There just wasn’t anything to offer school kids back then.  In the space of one indoor game he went from throwing hammers every chance he got to faking hammers to move the defender and throwing simple breaks.  He also went from chasing people around on defence to covering the open side, covering the deep and setting up his body position to attack under cuts.  Pretty impressive.

Cian O’Morain, Johnny Chimpo, Dublin.

I’ve always been impressed by his hunger to think and understand what is going on in a game.  Not everyone buys into the idea that an organised group can be far more powerful than an isolated star.

Yvonne Halpin, Throwin’ Shapes, Dublin.

Could very easily have rested on her laurels as the top female player in Ireland for a few years.  Instead, she consistently applied herself to improving, adapting and imposing herself more on games.

Brian MacDevitt – Ireland Open, Ireland

For 11 years the man bled green.  His dedication to the national team never wavered as he put his body, time and mind on the line.

Mark Earley, nearly every team, Dublin.

Everybody loves playing.  Everyone wants to go to competitions and play lots of games.  I haven’t met anyone willing to put as much time into making that possible as Mark.  The number of playing opportunities in Ireland would be a lot less but for Mark’s admin work over the years.

Simon Cocking, Pookas, Ireland.

With absolutely no reservations I say without Simon, Irish ultimate would be a shadow of it’s current self, if it even existed at all.  Each and every person playing the sport here needs to know that without the years of effort Simon put in, it is almost certain that any experience we might have of ultimate would be completely different and on a much smaller scale than we all currently enjoy.

(Hard though it will be to believe, I didn’t actually pay him to say that! As we can’t time travel yet, it’s hard to know either way).


Favourite throw / play

‘99 – ‘02 – an exciting catch, maybe a layout.

‘02 – ‘09 – all about the big throw.

‘10 – ‘14 – completions.

I’m annoyed that it took me so long to come to the realisation that completions were the best kind of passes to go for.  I got caught up trying to be the big thrower, the star player, chasing the applause and glory.  I was so busy hunting MVP prizes or vainly chasing the IFDA Player of the Year Award that I lost sight of what I should have been doing on the pitch.  I wish I had recognised that throwing completions would have made me a much better player, a better teammate and, more than likely, a better contributor to the teams I was part of.

That said, I did always love a good layout.  Block or catch, I didn’t mind.  As long as I got the disc.

Oh and I really like a well executed lead pass (of any distance).  Being able to recognise where my teammate is going, identify when they will get there and then execute the pass that will get there at the right time.  The combination of visual recognition, mental processing and physical execution I always found pretty cool.


The future for Irish ultimate ? 

The future is bright.  I wouldn’t like to predict as we are still in major flux.  Some of the things I wonder about:

  • What effect will the increased number of young players in Cork, Dublin and Limerick have on the national and international standard in 5 to 10 years?
  • What new clubs will form, in what areas of the country?
  • Will we ever get past the point of people wanting to commit to Ireland but not to a club?  Or the post international fall off?
  • How will we crack the world of adult beginners and social players?
  • How will proposed changes in All-Ireland competition structures affect participation and standard across the board?
  • What new competitions will come on the domestic calendar to capture people’s attention?  How will they fair against team’s desire to travel to competitions?
  • What direction will the association committee, local committees and the community as a whole travel in?

Any role in it for you?

I hope so, if people will have me.  As long as I’m able to contribute in some way, I would like to do it.  If I stop being productive then I hope either I would have the wisdom to step away or others will have enough respect to tell me.


Who had the biggest influence on you as a player?

You and me.

You because you got me started.  As with everything in life, the first step is the hardest.  To take me from knowing nothing about the sport to knowing that it existed and on to making basic throws was the biggest step in my ultimate career.

Me because I was the one who decided, consciously or subconsciously, to take on or ignore the information that was being provided to me.  Many people have offered coaching, shown me things and given advice over the years.  In all cases, it was up to me to take those things on board and put them into practice.  How well or bad I did at that is the deciding factor at how my career progressed.

A person can work with the greatest coach in the world but if they aren’t willing to listen and take on board what is being said, then the work is for nothing.  They may as well have gone for a walk in the park.


Any closing comments?

I’d like to clarify some of what I said about the depression I experience.

First, I don’t blame anyone for it.  I hope it didn’t sound like I was trying to point a finger at anyone saying they should have done more or different for me.  I know that everyone lives their life as best they can and does what they think is right.  I also understand that a time can come when they have to do what’s best for themselves.

If anyone is to blame, it would be me.  I made situations and relationships be, and mean, more to me than they were capable of.  I pushed beyond people’s capacity, asked more than they were willing to give and put them in situations they didn’t deserve.  To them, thank you for what you gave me and how much you helped me.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to just let our friendships be what they should have been.

I’d also like to be clear that I make no claims over anything I have experienced being worse than what anyone else has dealt with.  Things have happened, and happen, in my life that, try as I might, I am just not able to deal with.  Other people may be able to deal with these events, but they might have their own fight.  There can be as many different struggles as there are people and no person or battle is any less or more important than any other.

I chose the dramatic step of telling my story publicly, others may choose to tell people close to them, others may tell a stranger.  Others, I am sure, believe there is no one they can tell.  If you have ever stood at the pulpit of “Please Talk”/”It’s Good to Talk” please consider that it is also good to ask.  You might have the strength to start a conversation that your friend doesn’t.