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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Ireland Mixed 2015, Irish Ultimate

Ireland Mixed aiming for EUC 2015 Copenhagen glory, 1 point at a time

By @SimonCocking, interview with Conor Hogan @IrelandMixed

When did you start training together?

Back in September and early October we had our trials, and after picking the squad we had our first training weekend in early November. It was a casual enough affair where we set our team goals for the season and had a meeting and mobility screening with our S&A coach (Doyler) on Saturday. Then on the Sunday we started introducing our structures. Since then we’ve had 1 training weekend or warm-up tournament per month, other than April where we had a month off and July when we had both a training day and a warm-up tournament.

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What’s the plan for the last few weeks – any tournies, or wrap everyone in cotton wool (please)

So we’ve just finished our last training weekend. Dublin Women’s Ultimate invited 4 Seattle Riot players over to run some clinics for coaches, junior players and female players, so these four were our guest coaches for our last session together. It was awesome to get new perspectives on some of our systems and they really helped us figure out some of the kinks in our structures.

For our last week and a half before we fly, it’s more or less a case of don’t be stupid. Club training, a last bit of conditioning, etc. is all fine. But we’re all smart enough to know that the weekly 5-a-side on a Thursday night after work is a crap idea between now and EUC! Everyone’s normal Frisbee routine will be sufficient to have us in good shape before Euros so we’re not quite at the cotton wool stage just yet.

You have a few players with experience from the successful mixed beach campaigns of 2013, has that helped?

Most of our team has previous success on an Irish mixed team, be it the beach teams of 2013 or 2015, the U23s of 2013, or the 6th place finishers at the last Euros in 2011. So we’re not lacking in mixed experience thankfully. The main benefit of having players from that 2013 team is having people on the squad who know what it’s like to play in a European final in front of a big crowd. We were fortunate enough to make two finals so far this season, both with decent crowds, so I’d like to think we’ll not be uncomfortable if we should progress that far in Copenhagen. But yeah, having Sam for example give us his thoughts on what it was like to play in front of a big crowd in Calafell was a big help so far this season in big games. So the benefits of this are mainly psychological.

At the same time it is also a relatively young squad you’ve assembled, has that helped too?

We’re pretty young alright, yeah. The average age of the team is 24 (and a half!). A lot of us have been playing together for years though, be it with our respective clubs, colleges, or on national teams, so we’re a pretty cohesive unit and we all know each other’s preferences of cuts, throws, etc. really well. So I guess the fact we’re pretty young doesn’t help one way or another as such, but the amount we’ve all played together definitely has helped a bunch!

Who are the different captains and what are their roles?

Our “leadership team”, for lack of a better term, is made up as Frenchi as coach with myself, Emer, Fiona and Liam as captains. 5 seems like a lot to run the team, but it’s been great from an organisational point of view because there is always someone free to do whatever work is needed. The captains’ roles don’t really differ that much to be honest. At our first training weekend, we were all announced as “pod leaders” meaning we had 4 players each on the squad that we would have in our pod for the season. The idea of the pods was so that Ian didn’t have to look after the questions, concerns, demands, etc. of 20 other people, which would have been a logistical nightmare. We help by communicating different bits of information to our pods, such as feedback on performance post training/tournament, and we answer any and all questions regarding tactics or logistics. On pitch our roles don’t differ; for each game someone does the flip, someone does the speech post game, but no one person is designated to do it for a full tournament or anything.

To help us throughout the season with spirit issues, we’ve appointed Alan Pierce as our spirit captain. He helps keep us on our toes with spirit discussions before, during and after tournaments, and helps resolve any issues that come up mid-game too.

What new elements, if any, have you introduced to how the team trains and plays?

Most of the team were familiar enough with our structures in one way, shape or form when we introduced them throughout the season. The main thing we’ve introduced that would be different is a number of initiations which needed to be learned by all, but I guess that’s the same for every team at all levels. Some players are debutants at Senior level, so they would have had to adapt to the speed of the game, but you wouldn’t guess it from the way they’ve been playing recently!

You’re coming off the back of several successful results and tournaments. Well done on that. What aspects have worked that you were especially happy about?

Yeah, thanks! Results wise we’ve had a pretty nice season so far. It’s been a good confidence booster, but we’ve had a scare or two along the way to keep us honest, which was important too.

Without going into tactics and that, the main things we’ve taken away from our pre-season is our attitude and positivity. When we have been relaxed, with positive feedback for each other and positive body language, we have crushed it! It’s been really awesome to be a part of. When we’ve been a bit lethargic or lacking in energy we’ve struggled to maximise our efficiency on pitch, so it was really important for us to recognise this as a team, especially at Dublin’s Golden Cup, and to tackle the issue. We responded really well after a sluggish start to the weekend and it showed us that we need to be switched on 100% of the time, which can be mentally fatiguing, but it’s really important for us to be there if we want to do well.

What are your goals for EUC 2015?

We’ve a number of team goals which will remain a mystery for the time being! We do want to go over to Copenhagen and perform to the best of our ability though. Throughout the season we’ve focused more on the process rather than the results. If you do the former well, the latter sorts itself out. Something that the Riot girls talked about at the coaching clinic last weekend was “focusing on the controllables”. There are going to be a ton of distractions and hype around the event. There could be fluctuating weather conditions throughout the whole week. There are hundreds of different variables that we can do literally nothing about, so why think about them? If we execute and succeed in our goal to control the things that we can control, then the other team goals will sort themselves out.

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Have these shifted / what’s your strategy to manage expectations, and help to team to pace themselves for a successful whole tournament campaign?

If we take each point one at a time, and “live in the now”, we’ll be fine with regards to pacing ourselves. We have 5 group games, but there’s little point in looking forward to our Thursday morning group game on Monday, when we’ve 4 to play before then. So if we employ a tactic of just thinking about our next game, and giving it everything for the next point of that next game, our focus shouldn’t falter.

Without mentioning any specific teams, some nations have gained a reputation for questionable behaviour and gamesmanship. Have you done anything to help prepare the team for dealing with this sort of thing if you happen to encounter it?

Funny enough, we kind of have. We’ve talked at length as a team about different scenarios that have cropped up in our games throughout the season and we’ve discussed the way that we would like to approach these scenarios should they arise again. Pierce, as spirit captain, has been great in this regard to remind us of certain rules and how we should implement them in a given scenario. We’ve talked about how we react to calls too and how our tone and body language can be used to calm situations rather than having our opponents get their backs up against us. At our training with the Riot girls they introduced a few drills and tactics too to help us deal with overly physical teams. In the next 2 weeks we hope our players will get their clubs to run these drills so they can get more and more comfortable in these awkward situations.

You’re the marketing guy – the team profiles are good (but you should have made them sharable / tweetable too), was there any interest in corporate sponsorship for the team – with the Irish economy picking again, it might be an opportunity moving forwards?

The masters in marketing hasn’t been a waste of money after all! Unfortunately, Ultimate Central doesn’t give social media options, but it’s a good idea going forward – definitely something to give them feedback on.

We did have an offer to sponsor some of our kit, but with the timing of getting our kit and all the logistics of getting something printed on them after receiving the kit, it’s been tough to successful negotiate a deal. It might still happen!

Going forward, yeah, it would be sweet to get some sponsorship! To go into a bit of a partnership or deal with someone for a few years would be great, and it would help keep the costs of attending international competitions lower. If anyone knows any companies that might be interested, you might get them to email president@irishultimate.com. I’m sure President Boyle would love to hear from you.

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

I’d just like to do a number of thank yous at this point! Thanks to Ian, Emer, Fiona and Liam for all their hard work so far this season, and getting the team to the point we’re at. Thanks to the Riot girls (Charlie, Rachel, Shannon and Surge) for making the trip over and helping us to up our game. Thanks to everyone who has helped us out in one way or another this season (Nuala, Lizzie, Claire, Doyler, Perfect, and anyone else I’ve missed!). Thanks to the rest of the team for making this season so memorable, even if it’s far from over! And lastly, thanks to everyone who has supported us this far. We’re coming up on our last hurdle and all of your messages and support has been awesome!

To follow the team at EUC, like and follow us on:

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Dominick Smyth, Emma O'Callaghan, Geoff West, Ian Cuddihy, IFDA, Irish Ultimate, Nick Cash, Patatas Bravas, Reuben Godfrey, Ultimate Frisbee

7 latest Ultimate interviews February 2015

By @SimonCocking

It’s been another good month for ultimate interviews. Thanks to all those who contributed their views and words of wisdom. Happy to keep talking to people and putting it out there. Here they are, in strictly chronological order.

Patatas Bravas, Evolution of Barcelona Ultimate,

Emma O’Callaghan, NUI Galway Captain

Nick Cash, awesome longevity, ’76 to 2015,

Geoff West, there at the birth of Ultimate Frisbee, Columbia High School 1968

Reuben Godfrey, Chimpo founder and raconteur  story  and pics 

Dominick Smyth, massively popular, brave and helpful to many, parts 1 & 2

Ian Cuddihy, Kilkenny emigre, pilot, beach lover, Irish World Beach Gold medal winner

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Brian Boyle, IFDA, Interview, Irish Ultimate, Ultimate Frisbee, Wheelchair Ultimate

Interview with Brian Boyle, Irish Ultimate’s returning President 2014/2015

@SimonCocking

mon3

Interview with Brian Boyle, Irish Ultimate’s returning President 2014/2015

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Congrats on a 2nd term. What made you want to do another year?

Thanks Si! I think I did a pretty good job overall last year and there’s a few things that I wanted to keep working on. Ferguson and Rickard were both pretty sure they would be stepping down as well, and it’s good to have one of the three leading committee members still around so everything isn’t forgotten from year to year. I’d also like to think that I made a positive impression with our members around the country last year and I know the majority of them personally, which can cause some issues but I think it’s easier dealing with someone you know or have met in the past than with a faceless President through emails.

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Any unfinished business? What do you plan to do differently? Any changes?

Obviously Sports Council recognition is the big one. I really want to get that done during this term and I’ve set the goal of January for submitting our application. In terms of doing things differently, I’d like to be a bit more open with the community and also work more with people outside of the committee. There’s plenty of knowledge and resources in our community that can be tapped into, and I’m sure plenty of people are willing to help out with things if they can (so get in touch if you’re interested!). The committee is made of all Dublin based players and only one female player this year as well, which is a bit of a concern as we don’t want to potentially isolate other groups from our proceedings. A few sub-committees will be set up this year to deal with certain issues, so we’ll do our best to make those as diverse as possible.

How many of the committee are new / how many repeats? Was it hard to fill all the roles?

Jen Cooper and myself will be continuing our roles as Development Director and President respectively. We have five new members this year: Aidan Kelly as Secretary, Killian Roche as Treasurer, Declan Grogan as Coaching Director, Conor Hogan as High Performance Director, and Alan Pierce as Competitions Director. I was actually dreading the elections part of the AGM as it’s always hard to get people to run for things (I only ran for President last year because no one else did. No regrets though!). However, this year somebody ran for each position straight away, and in most cases there were multiple people running for each position, which is our ideal scenario. This may have been the first time that someone running for re-election was beaten too, as our Competitions Director Barry Walsh lost a close vote against Alan Pierce. This goes to show that it’s getting harder and harder to make it onto the committee, as opposed to getting harder and harder to fill positions, which is wonderful. People are obviously taking more of an interest in the IFDA, which hopefully continues.

Tell us about the 4 motions that passed – what are the implications / what differences might it make?

The first motion was a no-brainer, lowering the quorum for the AGM from 10% of membership to a set number of 25 members. With the growth of membership, especially child membership, it was no longer reasonable to expect 10% of our members at the AGM. Most other NGBs have quite low numbers for quorums, so it fits in with common practice as well.

The second motion has strong implications. We’ll be doing a constitutional review to better define the relationship between the IFDA, Irish Ultimate, Disc Golf Ireland and any future Disc Sports organizations. This is a huge job, but very important as it will only become more difficult the longer we put it off. This should help our ISC application process as well. One implication is potentially having separate constitutions and AGMs for Irish Ultimate and the IFDA, but I imagine for the first few years that they will be run side-by-side and hopefully with similar, if not identical, committees. This has become a necessity since the current IFDA committee do not have the knowledge or resources to run Disc Golf events, and having a separate body for that is ideal.

The third motion was for us to define and register clubs. This would make our lives so much easier as we don’t know what clubs exist out there, where and when they train (if at all), how many members they have etc. Right now if somebody asks to join a club, we can say ‘we think there’s one here, maybe contact this person’. Now we’ll know who is actively playing Ultimate (or other Disc Sports) in Ireland. The definition part is just to prevent pick-up teams from forming to play IFDA events. Also, the word ‘club’ is in our constitution, so it would be nice to know what we mean when we say ‘club’.

The final motion that passed was to make minimum standards for Intervarsity tournaments. This is both to make the standard of college tournaments rise, and also make it easier for colleges to run an event if they haven’t ran one before. They won’t be as strict as our All Ireland standards.

The two that weren’t passed? Comments, too soon / not right for now?

The motion to have a consistent way of seeding IFDA events throughout the year didn’t pass. This is probably because either people didn’t like the options, or they prefer events be seeded differently based on the event. I’m upset this didn’t pass as seedings are always the number one source of my IFDA related headaches during the year, but hopefully things will be easier next year.

The motion to have a delegate system for voting at the AGM as opposed to a ‘one member one vote’ system also failed to pass. I also don’t like that this motion didn’t pass as it would have encouraged more individuals and clubs to take an interest in the AGM. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is brought up again in the future, but maybe it was too soon this year.
Any other ideas you’d like to see in 2015?

Our new website is an incredible resource that people should use. (Maybe you’re interested in writing a few pieces for it yourself Si?). Right now you can see it at irishultimate.ultimatecentral.com, but it should be updated to just irishultimate.com very soon. There are so many features that we’ve only begun to scrape the surface, so it may be worth checking out afda.com (Australia Flying Disc) to see the potential of our own website.

I set up a Facebook group to discuss the motions before the AGM, which I think was a big success. I’d like to keep this group going through the year as an informal public forum for people to discuss things with the IFDA. Hopefully this will make us more accountable and also make us into a tighter knit community.

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Wheelchair Ultimate, any progress in having a game some time?

Yes! Been working on it. Was hoping to get something going before Christmas but the time has snuck up on me. Doesn’t it always? I’ll hopefully get to organize something in the new year. Everyone here at IWA-Sport seems quite open to the idea as well, which is great, especially since it has just received Paralympic recognition.

On a side note, working at IWA-Sport has been great for me in terms of resources, as they are a multi-sport NGB such as ourselves who are Sports Council recognized. I have access to their policies which we can adapt for our own use, and I’ve also made it to a few ISC events on project management and anti-doping, which is great for networking with other National Governing Bodies. It’s encouraging to know how many of them have actually heard about Ultimate or other Disc Sports, and even break out a disc from time to time themselves! I heard a very amusing story of a ladies GAA team getting in trouble for throwing a disc in the airport, and some basketball teams even break out a Frisbee from time to time, although mostly just for throwing, they wouldn’t actually be playing Ultimate, but it’s still great to hear.

Anything else to add?

Just thank you for doing this. Obviously not everyone goes to the AGM, so it’s good to have something like this for the people who weren’t there, and even those who were. Minutes will be available soon, and obviously everyone is always welcome to send me an email with any questions about the new motions or anything else president@irishultimate.com

I’ve also enjoyed your past interviews. It’s great to read about the early days of our sport in this country. Even the interviews with people from other countries have been brilliant. I love getting a notification that you’ve posted a new one to our Facebook page, and I hope you keep doing them!

Any questions I should have asked?

Favourite moment from last year? Probably the WFDF Annual Congress in Lecco. I was by far the youngest person there, and it was great to represent Ireland and talk to other country’s Disc Sports organizations. Getting different perspectives on other youth programs, committee systems and communications strategies was brilliant. I hope to attend next year’s as well (hopefully it will be in London for WU23 so I don’t have to travel too far).

Biggest mistake last year? Probably the Developmental Intervarsities rules. I’ll be working with captains to fix them for this year and make them fair for each team. It’s good to have to make these changes though, since it means more and more people are playing Ultimate before coming to college.

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Hope the Ball went well.

Yep, the Ball was brilliant as always. The bar closed a bit earlier than we would have liked, but some last minute planning meant we went to Leggs to keep the party going on until almost 5am. Nothing beats having an auld boogie in a tuxedo.

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I was honoured to receive the award for Most Spirited Male Player during the ceremony as well. I always try to build my reputation as a player with good Spirit, and even to be nominated in that category let alone win it was a dream come true. Also, most people are usually surprised when they hear for the first time that I’m actually from Philadelphia, and I only moved here in 2010. During the AGM and Ball last night it was a humbling experience to be reminded of how I’ve been welcomed into this community with such open arms. I didn’t make an acceptance speech at the Ball, but if I had I would have thanked all the players around the country who helped to make this my new home.

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Final words

A big thank you to last year’s committee who did a great job, and the best of luck to next year’s committee who I look forward to working with very much. It’s nice to see that all the hard work we do during the year pays off and gets appreciated.

 

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Interview, Raymond Stephens, Ultimate Frisbee

Waiting for Irish Ultimate, interview with Raymond Stephens, host of the Glendalough Open

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This player was special. In ’95, he had been waiting for Ultimate Frisbee to come to Ireland since he was a child. He didn’t know there was a game, he just wanted someone to throw with. From TCD, he even wrote to the disc manufacturers, probably a whamo, to ask for the mathematical equation of what happened when the disc was in the air. Naturally they ignored him.

I met him the first week I moved to Ireland, organising an acorn picking day in Wicklow. Something to do with protecting native Irish oaks under the onslaught of invasive species like sycamore. 19 years later, such is the impact of global warming, for some, sycamore is no longer considered a non native tree. From that first trip, with a van load of strangers, came the person who subsequently created and hosted the Glendalough Open for 3 years.

Raymond was the first and only Irish player from the very beginning to make it onto  the pitch in 99 & 2000 when Ireland finally reached Worlds. I was delighted he hung around for so long, even after moving first to Glendalough, and then later to Spiddal. His back finally grew too stiff to play anymore, and after being there for the (r)evolution of Prague 01, he played less and less. If you do ever make it down to his fabulous wooden kit house in Gort he will still happily throw a disc with you to this day, just don’t ask him to run after it anymore.

When did you play from? 95 – 02?

I don’t know but that sounds about right

r2

Your story about always wanting to throw a frisbee as a kid is cool – describe that?

I remember playing Frisbee with my brother on a beach and in a Garden and thinking “there must be loads more things you could do with this than just throw it back and forth.  I was right.  In hindsight, it’s odd that my brother didn’t invent something a bit like ultimate as he invented games with lots of other things including coins and tyres….”

and then about how you wrote to the manufacturers to ask them for the mathematical equation for what it was doing when you threw it?

I don’t remember much about that – I don’t have a copy of the letter I’m afraid.  Some English friend of mine gave me  a proper discraft Frisbee for my birthday one year on a holiday to Norway (it came in handy there) and I was so taken by it that I wrote to discraft to ask them for the mathematical equations governing the movement of a Frisbee in the air.  Not surprisingly, I never received an answer.

Came across a couple of good articles that might help to answer these burning questions, 1 & 2 

RaySimon

Who’s that girl? + Raymo

What was it like to play in Dublin in the mid to late 90’s?

Well, I was working for an volunteer organisation where I came across all sorts of off-the-wall people and one of them was this short English bloke who I hit it off with.  It came out that he played a game called ultimate in Herbert park and anyone was welcome and try.  I had always loved Frisbee and could throw alright (forehand only).  Also, I had never really been able to get into mainstream sports like soccer and Gaelic as I just found them (and still do) stupidly aggressive and competitive to a fault.  So the self refereeing and Spirit aspects of Ultimate really appealed to me.

What did you make of the crowd that played it?

I really liked the odd-ball crowd who played it- most weren’t overly athletic so that suited me just fine.  It was a really lovely feeling to cycle in to Herbert park (later Belfield) and see the discs flying from a distance.  It was just the right mix of skill, competitiveness and athleticism for me.

If there had been an ultimate team at TCD when you went there do you think you would have played for them?

If  I’d known about them. I’d have forgiven them for their prod’ie ways. I’m just joking now Simon, you can’t really put that in. I didn’t play for Trinity in any other sport. I played football as a kid, but the gaeilic and all the rest just didn’t appeal to me. I used the sport centre, to play badminton

and to check out the women …?

Stop putting words into my mouth there Simon.

r4

Pookas, Dublin tournament ‘circa 97

You were one of the first regular Irish players to play, what was it like to be the Irish guy among expats?

Well there were other Irish players, Conor, Jimmy, Eoghan . To be honest, the nationality of the players never really meant much to me.  I liked to play in an international atmosphere as there was maybe more accepting of peoples differences as everybody was obviously different.

 and perhaps the only one to make it to our first worlds – what was it like to play for your country?

I got a great laugh out of playing for my country.  There was some pride but mostly I just thought it was hilarious.  I still now get a kick of telling people I represented my country at the highest level.  Even more hilariously, I got paid leave from my civil service job to represent my country abroad!!  If only they knew!!  I remember I brought earplugs and the big plastic ear defenders so I could sleep at night.  Worked a treat.

I remember writing the letters, as ‘head’ of the national sporting organisation, to several civil servants on our team, who then qualified for a week’s paid holiday as they were representing their country on official business. It tickled me at the time, boy did you owe me a pint for that. But I’m pretty sure you got me one along the way, so it’s all good.

Tell us about the wobbly disc you threw for the winning point against South Africa – for Ireland’s first ever win in the Open Division

It was to some young Irish guy. Not Brian MacDevitt, god, who,  maybe John Lynham, some young Irish fella. I don’t think we actually had that many young Irish guys on the team. Especially after Declan Breslin broke his foot the week before in a final in Germany, and spent the week getting pushed round in a shopping trolly. That was funny! The doctor to be, drinking LIDL beer and forgetting his crutches all the time.

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His house in the Glendalough valley, home of the Wicklow open for 3 years

Then you moved to Wicklow – but you brought the frisbee to your back door, literally! Tell us about the numerous Wicklow open events you ran – and the 30 or 40 people sleeping in your house and garden.

I’ll take it as a good sign that I cannot remember too much about these get togethers.  But yes, 15 tents beside a river and great Frisbee golf and ultimate was  a real pleasure.  Great post  match parties too. I remember two things – the traditional “last hole” on the Frisbee golf course around Camderry (the mountain opposite my house), it was from the top of the slope THROUGH my front door! Fantastic.  And Brian Goode’s incredible “hole-in-one” when he hit a scot’s pine half way up the trunk from about 100m away, downhill. Jaw-dropping.

[I even named one of my kids after the guy whose land Raymond’s little converted cabin was on. ‘Zeph’.]

How did ultimate change in Ireland during your time?

Well, lots of new younger players got involved and a few more teams were set up around the country, but I think the bigger changes came after I left Ireland in 2002

You were one of the first to stop playing? Why?

I left Ireland in 2002 to travel in Latin America and then I lived in Spain for 3 years.  I played a couple of evenings with a team in Girona, but I then had a double disc hernia in my back and I’ve never played Ultimate again really.

Do / did you miss it?

I do miss it.  Not actively as I am quite busy with other things.  But I do realise that it was a wonderful part of my life and I’m very happy to have played for so long and to have met all the great people I met.  I play Frisbee with my children now and enjoy that.  And I play Frisbee golf when I get the chance,  I still have my Pooka shirt and sometimes I put it on and stand in front of the mirror with a disc making feints left and right…………

He’s not joking either!

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Favourite game?

I think I scored a good point against Spain in Heilebron and I think we won that game so I’ll go with that (I didn’t score many points….)

Too modest. He also threw the winning pass to beat South Africa in 2000 for Ireland’s first ever win at Open level. That said, it was a really crappy, floaty, wobbly flick. Standing behind him at the time I was amazed it got to the endzone to be caught by one of our players. But, it did the trick and we’d won our first game at Worlds.

Favourite players played with?

Ah now, has to be that short English bloke….but also Conor,  Jimmy, Mikey,  Eoghan, Ryan, Jo, BrianMcD, Brian Goode, Pete, Gareth, Chris, Jamie…who did I forget?

Far too diplomatic, I didn’t say list the whole f@@king team.

Memorable incident, on and off the pitch?

I loved the Swan attacking you at Ross on Wye.

Yes that was good

Watching Eoghan and someone else (Chris?) jumping onto the luggage belt at (Dublin?) airport after a Ross-on-Wye.  Some drink had been taken.  I just thought it hilarious watching them disappear from view as they went under those big plastic curtains…..

On the pitch

Seeing Brian Goode actually do the GREATEST in a match- only time I’ve ever seen it done properly.

We did also do it at Worlds in 2000, though to be fair it was 10 yards outside our own endzone, which of course suggests that the thrower was just crap, rather than the receiver being particularly amazing.

What did your family / folks think? 

That’s a funny one. They didn’t take it seriously, they thought it was a joke, but now that my nephew, who is on the Cork and Irish under 23 team (ed Irish Juniors), plays, he is given a lot of respect for what he does. It is taken seriously now by the family, which is a great change from when I was playing.

With my nephew too, it’s an interesting one. He was a very talented player for GAA, soccer and then ultimate too. Thing was he had less than stellar experiences with other sports. He was strung along a bit. He was the reserve goalie, young, but very good for his age. So they kept picking him, and promising he would get a game, time and again, and then not get played. This is not a hard luck story, just a common experience in GAA and soccer. For this reason lots of talented players quit those sports. This is Ultimate’s gain, their loss, because, ultimate is fundamentally about giving all the players as much of a playing experience as possible. O and D lines, mean if you can make the squad, you will get pitch time. It may be more or less than some others, but you won’t spend the whole game unused on the bench, as happens every match in soccer / rugby / gaa for some of the squad. It isn’t a smart strategy for the long term retention of players, and is massive plus in ultimate’s favour.

Back then I got onto the team, because I lived in Ireland, and wanted to play for them. Now there are trials, and you have to be picked. It’s a whole different level. I love it, but I might not have made the team a few years later on.

Is it weird even trying to tell your own kids, about what you did ?

I do try, they’re not cynical yet, they’re still a bit young yet. I loved the sport though because it was mixed. I think it changed the dynamic, made it less aggressive. It made people more respectful. I liked it that it was mixed, it really made it for me. I think it’s a great team sport. Tennis and badminton are, but individual sports, for learning how to play well with others I think it’s a great game and I’d love for my kids to be involved when they get bigger.

What about St Andrews, those Dutch guys, beating Tetse fly after the thunder storm … ?

No, I don’t remember any of it.

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Prague when they stole Declan’s bed, or covered Jamie + Chris’s front door with porn ? What do you remember, the naked men and the hammers incident? Anything?

I’m very innocent,  I was just there for the disc man, I was already the old man on the team. I didn’t have the energy or the time to be getting up to high jinx as well as playing. A week of ultimate was enough for me.

What would you like to add?

So long and thanks for all the discs. Shame that’s already been taken, I hope everyone realises it’s a ripoff from Douglas Adams in the first place.

Parting words of wisdom?

Enjoy it while you can………

I love Frisbee.

 

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Interview, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Ultimate Frisbee

The first 7 Irish Ultimate Interviews

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying hearing about the good and the great of Irish Ultimate talk about their experiences and highs and lows. I’m also already beginning to lose track of who we’ve had so far, (blame it on wordpress!)

So here, in an easy to find format, are the links to the first 7 interviews. There are more coming in the pipeline, but, as you can imagine it’s a slow process to create this level of quality, (ha ha). I’m also actively trying to track down those who are further afield from Dublin. Message me @SimonCocking with suggestions for possible interviewees. Semi or completely retired is probably better. Founders of Cork, Belfast, are all on my wish list, as well as women players too.

Here are our first magnificent seven, in purely chronological order, imagine the grief otherwise, we’d never hear the end of it!

BmCYoung gun, number #21 Brian Mc Devitt

EBDeep thinker, audax cyclist Eoghan Barry 

DSC_0064The no longer (quite as) moody Chris Stokes

JCThe splendiferous Jamie Crick

GMovie buff, smart guy, Gareth ‘ Crash’ McFeely

CFW Ever critical – no, no, he really is one, Chris Fite-Wassilak

CorkOpen2008Pitches 294And, the latest one  Alan ‘Dman’ Doyle

 

 

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