UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Second Leagues Preview

Midlands, North, Open, Previews, South East, University

Our new second leagues writer Tom Claxton gives a quick recap of last season, and a preview of who will be the big names fighting for promotion this year.

Welcome to the second leagues: full of grit and determination, where a team’s Nationals prospects can be made or undone in just a single game. And with the weekly league structure it is not just your prospects for this season, but for the following as well. Promotion into the top leagues guarantees a Division 1 or 2 Nationals place the following year. But this requires a team to be near undefeated for the entire year, which is made further challenging by having to play on average eight games a season with a lot of travelling and persuading players to make up numbers.

Three regions (North, Midlands, and South East) have two second leagues (2A and 2B), from which only the top team gets promoted each season. The Western region however only has one second league this year (Western 2A).

Alongside the league system is a set of cup matches, with one cup for each of the four regions mentioned above. The two cup finalists from each region get to go to Division 3 Nationals, along with the seventh and eighth placed teams from the Scotland 1A league. This does mean that there is no qualification for Nationals based on league performance, and it can occur that a team finishes mid-table in their league, yet still makes Nationals. Last season this is precisely what happened to Sussex 2, coming fifth in the South Eastern 2A league, however then becoming one of the cup finalists in a thrilling, giant-killing campaign.

Division 3 Nationals last year culminated in a gold and silver for Oxford and Newcastle respectively, alongside impressive undefeated league performances (and promotions) from both teams. Sheffield achieved bronze last year, but were sadly unable to secure promotion themselves, losing away at Bangor in the final game of the year, upon which Bangor gained promotion via the head-to-head rule.

Elsewhere in the leagues, Southampton managed to edge out of a three-way tie between Plymouth and Exeter 2 to gain promotion from Western 2B league. Imperial, Nottingham Trent, LSE and UWE all maintained unbeaten league records to get promoted, although none of them were successful enough in the cup to qualify for Nationals.

This season will also see the second leagues joined by the eight relegated teams from the top leagues. Will they be able to bounce back up immediately, or will a resident team pip them to the post? Here’s a summary of our favourites for each league this season.

 

North

Northern 2A

Last year saw both relegated teams enter the Northern 2A league. This meant that it was always was going to be tough to be the only promoted team out of Sheffield, Liverpool, and Bangor.

With Bangor promoted (but no-one relegated into the league) our favourites are Sheffield. Only narrowly missing out on promotion last year, captain Tomas Benavides Clark is confident of their chances this season. They have had a good intake of freshers, alongside Jonny Ellis (LLLeeds) attending on a Masters course, it’s hard to see anyone beating them this season. Which should then lead to Sheffield topping the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Sheffield
  2. Liverpool
  3. Keele

Northern 2B

This is the largest of all the leagues, with 10 teams taking part. Both relegated teams from Northern 1A (Durham 2 and York) join the league, alongside highly placed finishers Hull, Northumbria, and Durham 3 from last year.

Seeing how well Durham 3 performed last year, our favourites for this year are Durham 2. According to last year’s club captain Dylan Spiers, Max Clifton and Ollie Baines have been heavy losses for the team, but Dom Stafford and Tom Lamport are expected to pick up this slack well. Having a first team training hard to win the top league will hopefully to trickle down to the second team through joint trainings and experienced coaching.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Durham 2
  2. Hull
  3. Northumbria

 

Midlands

Midlands 2A

Last year’s Division 3 Nationals winner Oxford hailed from this league, which was unlucky for the strong resident teams. Leicester won all of their other matches, and UEA joined Oxford in qualifying for Nationals. However this year the residents are joined by another traditionally strong team, Cambridge, who finished fifth in Division 2 Nationals last year.

Their strong finishing last year makes Cambridge our favourites, with captain James Richardson telling us: “I think we still have enough quality to be in with a chance of promotion. Our term hasn’t started yet so I don’t know if there will be a few promising freshers, but we’re always hopeful. I do know of a couple graduate students starting this year.”

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cambridge
  2. Leicester
  3. UEA (Aye-Aye)

Midlands 2B

With Nottingham Trent promoted, and Warwick 2 relegated, this league has more than half of its members as second teams. However the resident first teams have shown that they are more than a match for them, as Worcester were edged out of second place last year by Nottingham 2 on goal difference.

Due to their strong fourth place finish at Division 2 Nationals last year, our favourites for this league are Warwick 2. First team captain Willem Garnier hopes that they can achieve re-promotion, despite a considerable number of the second team players joining the ranks of the first team this year. He is confident that, given last year’s coaching from Andrew Hillman (Clapham Ultimate), and adding “some of the most talented freshers we’d ever seen”, they can be one of the top teams in the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Warwick 2
  2. Nottingham 2
  3. Worcester

 

West

Western 2A

This year marks a new change for the Western region. Due to this region having fewer teams than others, the Western 2A/2B leagues from last year have combined into one nine-strong league. This brings strong teams together who may not have had experience playing each other recently, as well as longer journeys for the away teams. Cardiff, Plymouth and Exeter 2 will all be in primary contention for the top spots, alongside relegated FXU (Falmouth) and Winchester.

Whether there is only one promotion spot or two is uncertain, but our favourites are Cardiff. Cardiff captain Dan Finch is “feeling very optimistic this year”, with “a much larger squad with greater depth than we have had in the last couple of years.” They were disappointed in not being able to challenge for Nationals last year, and this year that will certainly be an ambition.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cardiff
  2. Plymouth
  3. FXU

 

South East

South East 2A

Last year, the teams that placed 2-5 in the league all achieved cup semi-final positions, with the fourth and fifth placed teams, Brighton and Sussex 2 respectively, advancing to Division 3 Nationals. With this experience under their belts, we predict that there will be many tough games this year. Although they missed out on qualifying for Nationals, Chichester and Reading have consistently placed highly in this league.

However they are joined this year by Surrey. Their bronze medal in Division 2 Nationals last year makes them our favourites for this season. Captains Ashley Long (SMOG) and Nick Barker (Fire) have a tough challenge ahead of themselves, as many of last year’s players have left the club, although they do retain Sam Fowler (Fire), and Mike Nally (GB U20) has returned from injury. They are focusing their efforts on introducing players from their former second team into the firsts, with aims of getting promoted back into the top league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Surrey
  2. Reading
  3. Chichester

South East 2B

The smallest of the leagues this year, with only five competitors. Last year there were many close games, with league winners LSE only narrowly defeating Brunel in sudden-death, and Brunel themselves defeating Kent in a similar fashion. With St. Mary’s joining this year, it will certainly be an entertaining competition.

Our favourites this year are Brunel. Co-captain Harry Pearce is confident about their chances, but thinks it will be tough. “Last year we had an extremely fresher-heavy team and this year it’s looking pretty similar.” Once they start getting more experience Brunel could be quite the contender later in the season.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Brunel
  2. St. Mary’s
  3. Kent

 

All that leaves now is for us to watch this exciting season unfold! Midway through the season we’ll recap the leagues and update our predictions, in case you happen to prove us wrong.

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Scotland Preview

Open, Previews, Scotland, University

Oscar Nolan will be previewing Scotland’s university scene this year – here’s his introduction to the season, and our first preview of the year.

It’s that time of year, the university Ultimate season has rolled round once again. Club season is closing up shop for another year until the summer, Euros are over while the GB U24s are slowly getting their act together for their trip down under. Beginners have been recruited and engrained into the clubs at universities across Scotland. The graduates are deeply missing university Ultimate and thinking about masters, PhDs and the like. The opening game of the BUCS league is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more pumped to discuss this. Scotland is a region known for its excitement and a deep history of shock results. This year promises more twists and turns along the way so sit back, relax and let’s delve into the preview of the Scottish BUCS region.

St. Andrews

The reigning champions - St. Andrews.

Benji Heywood is now a “full-time” coach for St Andrews, the big cheese of UKU is now on a salary from the university and even has a desk, I hear. This can only mean one thing: St Andrews are just going to get better and it’s not clear whether anyone in this region can stop them. Over the past two years, winning has been the minimum expectation at St Andrews, their results prove this – UMIN champions and a top eight finish at UMON.

Some losses in the team include Lochlan “Goldilocks” Fisher (now at Edinburgh), Hugo Turner and Keith Fingland. Gabe “GB” Schechter is the man with the plan at St Andrews. Backed to the hilt by his SU with new training wear, logos, and merchandise they are attempting to open their own mega store for us to buy their brand. Connor Rock is looking to make a name for himself while Robbie Jones has achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming a first team player. Also, look to see Hannes Ludewig back in the side and vice-captain Aidan Steer backing Gabe all the way.

Connor Rock (Gabe was apparently too busy to give a preview) downplays the losses of the team and claims he doesn’t need them for greatness. A quick glance at the fixture list shows a packed schedule with Glasgow up first, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Heriot Watt. A stiff training regime has been implemented and confidence is high in the camp. It remains to be seen whether this team can continue this rise to stardom or crash down like a falling comet, with many looking to scalp them.

Glasgow

Gone are the days of Rory Curran, playing against Glasgow last year was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ex-captain Axel “Blondie” Ahmala saw his spirit scores improve greatly last season which undoubtedly surprised all in the community. A solid season for Glasgow saw them finish second in the table, third at UMON and a top four placing at UMIN.

Captain Joel Terry would do well to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps this year. The ever-present Christopher Chan is a doubt this year with doctor-hood well on the way. Fortunately for Joel, Alan Jeuken is there to lend a hand while the two ginger all-rounders Iain Campbell and Sam Finlay provide questionable comedic “banter”.

Losses include Duncan Webster and Axel himself but coming through the ranks include Doug Fraser, Fraser Kelly (ex GB juniors) and Julian Grant (ex-St Andrews). The first two games are arguably the toughest Glasgow will face with St Andrews and Dundee coming up. The reading for Glasgow does not get easier with the rest of their games are made up of Heriot Watt, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. It will be a real test but should they perform well in these, you could see them well on their way to Division 1 Nationals.

Dundee

Asif Arshad takes the helm of Dundee for this season. This team saw a difficult start to last year, losing to both St Andrews and Glasgow. They learned from these results beating both Strathclyde and Edinburgh while getting good points from other teams. This all resulted in third place and a trip to Division 1 Nationals placing sixth, and with a bronze medal finish at UMIN.

So, what’s new at Dundee then? Due to a diminished Women’s team Beth Hall will be hoping to play with the guys this year; yeah, you read that right. BUCS is technically an open sport so anyone can play including excellent female players of her calibre. Joe Hill and Angus Milliken have both departed the team in different ways. Fortunately, they have replacements in the form of Johnny Tofalis, Nick Byrne and James McGrath.

The fixtures for Dundee include Glasgow, St Andrews firsts, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh. A busy and hard fixture list, but Dundee won’t be fazed. Their goal is to go out and win everything including all Nationals events and the BUCS league. There will be some stiff competition, but I’m confident that this team will provide good entertainment for all concerned and make it to Nationals.

Strathclyde

Word on the street at the end of last year was Strathclyde looking to put in a second team for BUCS. Controversial, right? You would have thought Edinburgh or Glasgow would stake a claim on the next second team. In the end, they decided not to risk it instead sticking with only the first team, which has done well. Having lost the game to go to Nationals, they ended up fourth in the league last year and will strive to do better this year. Indoor Nationals was a disappointment but Outdoor Nationals was a great success of fifth in the country. In store for the boys at Strathclyde include Aberdeen, St Andrews 2 and Glasgow away with Stirling at home.

Youth appears to be the theme of the team this year with Andrew Warnock (GB U20s) leading the way. Backed by the steady hands of Cameron Mackie, Jonny Shaw and Gio Cabrera (Heriot don’t like to hear his name), he hopes to make a strong push for anything and everything in sight. Having lost only Jack Hughes and Ricky Deng, this could potentially be the strongest Horses team to date. I look forward with great interest to seeing how this team develops. In the words of the captain himself “we may be the Dark Horses but you should never count us out”.

Edinburgh

This year, Chris “Habs” Habgood captains a team that could really do some damage in the league. Last year there were difficulties against Strathclyde and Dundee, but positive takeaways from the St Andrews and Glasgow losses, which overall resulted in fifth place. Outdoor Nationals saw a Division 2 silver medal, and strong performances indoors. This season opens with Stirling and Dundee away while Glasgow and St Andrews 2 will come to the Burgh.

Christopher “Rocket” Burrows, Ian/Duncan/Bella Tait, Erasmus “Moose” Haggblom and Graeme Leamy have parted ways with the team, big shoes to fill here. Long serving Miroslav “easy options” Stankovic returns after a shoulder injury while Ben “Housewife” Preston is still around. There’s a multitude of second years pushing for places, leading the charge include young Teddy “King of the Lefties” Pilgrim and Joe “Sax” Pennington.

One hopes there won’t be issues with a random football team (c’mon eh corn) for pitch time this season. With fifth place finishes over the last two years, Habs sees a strong push for Division 1 indoors and outdoors but only time will tell if this is a team that is capable of living up to their capabilities.

Heriot Watt

Injury central, problems with fitness and not listening to medical advice. This appears to be a running trend within the Watt experience. It paid in the form of a few unfortunate losses and some scores that would worry any captain. The news does not improve from here with the likes of Cammy Dick and Andrew “MVP” Boxall graduating.

Leading the line is captain Fraser Stewart backed by Mike Carrell, Callum McLoughlin and ex-captain Gavin Nicholson. I hear Jonny Ridley is still kicking around Watt, keeping him fit may be the key to the Division 2 lock. Fraser is looking for a rebuilding year this year and finding the freshers to lead the charge up the table in years to come.

Their opening semester games sees away games at both St Andrews teams and Glasgow with Dundee at home. A stiff opening list where I see difficult games ahead, Heriot will not be fazed. The defying cry of “You Watt?!” will ring loud and clear across the pitch throughout Scottish ultimate once again.

St. Andrews 2

St. Andrews who? Last year was a good season for the only second team in the league, they came out on top of the three-way fight at the bottom. Apparently one of their targets last season was Edinburgh, that didn’t go quite as planned. These boys have a lot to do this year and I look forward to seeing if they can beat my prediction.

At the time of writing this article, St Andrews had yet to select captains for the season, showing their real investment in this team. Notable absentees from the team this year include Connor Rock, Aidan Steer and Robbie Jones who have both nailed down first team places. Coming through into the team include Matt Devendran (layout grab at trials) and Jack Symonds (full pitch throws, shock, right?). The Saints are hoping to bring a plethora of young talent into the team this year.

Their first semester games include Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde at home with Edinburgh away. These are tough matches; the seconds will look to take a chunk out of Heriot but the other two games will potentially not go so well. I don’t see this team getting the best of Aberdeen and Stirling at the bottom of the table but I have been proved wrong before.

Aberdeen

The former men’s writer named this team “Aber-doomed” last season but they snatched themselves from the jaws of relegation through a victory against Stirling and achieved a better points difference. They ran Heriot Watt and Edinburgh close last year, but came away with unfortunate losses but were crushed by Dundee, St Andrews and Glasgow.

It seems that it will take a while to rebuild the team back to the glory days but captain Edward Payne is looking to make in-roads this year. Aaron Roberts will be a major loss to the team but he is the only graduate. Edward looks to bring a few young names into the squad this year and push for Division 2 Nationals.

Aberdeen will look to make the BUCS league less of a struggle this year but we all know that the BUCS league is never easy. Up first for the boys in red include Strathclyde, St Andrews first team and Stirling. A short fixture list which includes two difficult opening games and a potential easy winner. Look for Aberdeen to get their Mojo back this year in the BUCS league.

Stirling

Hold the press folks, Fraser MacDonald is still at Stirling, remarkable. Instead of Australia convincing him to stay forever, he elected to come back and take on the presidency role. The role of captain falls into the capable gloves of Finlay Watson/up who has decided to take a break from highlight reels and trips to the disabled bathrooms to focus on Ultimate this year.

The intensity at trainings have been at the highest ever, due to the experienced setting examples left, right and centre. According to the cap, this is the largest squad that has ever played over at Stirling. Finlay will look to Fraser “Franchise” MacDonald, Peter “Clutch” Glasgow, and Daniel “Ding-Dong” McBride to lead the charge. Throw in up-n-coming Ryan “GU” Hill and you start to think this Stirling team might mean business this year.

With Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and St Andrews up first, this is a tough opening fixture list for the boys at Blaze. Aberdeen should be certain points but Stirling will be looking to avoid drubbings from the other teams. Will they make fifth place this year to climb into Division two or will it all go up in a Blaze of glory? Only time will tell.

Predictions

This is the bit where you get a laugh in derision because my predictions will not match yours. But let’s get down to it. I genuinely see St Andrews choking at the last minute and Strathclyde storming through to the top. Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh will have a tough three-way showdown for the third division one spot. I see it coming down to the final day with Dundee just pipping everyone to that precious Division 1 spot. Glasgow and Edinburgh will play in Division 2 this year along with Heriot Watt. The former two teams will likely be in the Men’s Outdoor Nationals’final with Heriot piling into the top eight. Stirling will come out on top of the bottom three with Aberdeen in at second last and St Andrews seconds ending up with the proverbial wooden spoon.

1st Strathclyde
2nd St Andrews
3rd Dundee
4th Edinburgh
5th Glasgow
6th Heriot Watt
7th Stirling
8th Aberdeen
9th St Andrews 2

AIUC 2017 – Division 2

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Here we share Aidan’s thoughts on the second division of AIUC 2017. 

Alongside the All-Ireland Ultimate Championship Division 1, there is a second division taking place this weekend in the same venue. This is for any club that didn’t qualify out of their region, or didn’t participate in the first place.

This year, we have nine teams fighting for the Division 2 title. Not only does this accolade tend to act as a precursor to a future at the top of the ladder*, but finishing position plays a massive part in bids for next year’s events. Depending on how teams finish at the bottom of Div 1 and the top of Div 2, one of our two regions (East and West) can potentially lose a bid to the other. This hasn’t occurred yet, so at the moment each region gets 4 a piece.

So for example: If Division 1 ends up with 6: W 7: E 8:W and Division 2 finishes 1: E 2: W 3: E, East gains a bid for the following year due to having two of the top three in division 2 and only one of the bottom three in division. Confused/don’t care? I’ll move on quickly…

1 – Uproar (Kildare)

The fifth place team in Div 1 last season, the club from just outside Dublin have had a massive amount of roster turnover since then. They have suffered with a bit of a transitional year and found themselves missing even more key players for the weekend of Regionals as they missed out on the top four spots.

The club will look to consolidate themselves by winning the division and doing all they can to help strengthen the East next year.

2 – Tribe 1 (Galway)

Another side who will be frustrated to see themselves down in the second tier this weekend. Tribe have a good, young team full of athletic talent but missed out on Div 1 due to a really strong showing for the West division this season.

Like Uproar, they will expect to work their way past their opponents and attempt to show that they don’t deserve to be thought of as a second division side.

3 – XVI 2 (Dublin)

Just like their first team, expect to see a young, plucky side who are out to garner experience. Expect several U17 internationals to feature and attempt to run the legs off everyone that they face.

Interestingly, they are grouped with Uproar, who they hold one giant upset victory over from earlier in the season. If they can do it again, they might be an outside bet for the final.

4 – Gravity 2 (Dublin)

A team that is hard to predict. Looks like a side full of players who gave a lot at training but just aren’t ready for first team action, along with some experienced internationals in the form of Emer Staunton and Sinead O’Sheil Fleming. While not as strong on paper as previous Gravity 2 sides, would expect them to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack this year.

5 – Tribe 2 (Galway)

Complete unknown to be honest. At a guess, will feature a number of young college players and pick ups as I expect Tribe will stack their first team as much as they can. It seems they are currently ineligible to finish above 5th due to roster regulations.

6 – Ballincolig 2 (Cork)

As I explained in the Div 1 preview, this is a club that prides itself on developing young talent. I expect this second team to display lots of it! I’m unsure if they will challenge the first teams above them, but can see them battling it out for a semi-final spot.

7 – Rebel 2 (Cork)

I expect this side to fly up the seedings this weekend as they are possibly the strongest second team in the division. Rebel just seem to have that bit more depth than those around them. Like Collig above, they will feature several school-level players with big futures as well as a number of older, established talents that might not have trained enough to make the first team this year.

8 – Gravity 3 (Dublin)

An interesting one. Probably as strong as their second team on paper, featuring a lot of older players who don’t really train but have the clear ability. Also ineligible for a top four finish due to rostering issues.

9 – PELT 3 (Limerick)

After establishing a Junior team earlier in the season, I expect a number of them to make their debuts for this side. It’s hard to guess who else will be featuring, but if any club know how to call in old faces and get them to don the jersey, it’s PELT. Like Tribe 2, a complete unknown but much more unpredictable. They could finish dead last or they could win the bloody thing.

Aidan’s predictions:

1 – Tribe 1

2 – Uproar

3 – Rebel 2

4 – XVI 2

5 – Ballincolig 2

6 – Gravity 2

7 – Gravity 3

8 – PELT 3

9 – Tribe 2

*PELT 2 and XVI have previously won and both are now in Division 1

AIUC 2017 Division 1

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Our favourite Irish reporter Aidan Kelly gives his views on All Ireland Ultimate Champs.

 

The 2017 Irish domestic club season prepares to come to a head, we are warmly welcomed by the pinnacle of Men’s Ultimate in the country. The All-Ireland Ultimate Championships.

With three* different winners in as many years, (or four if you count a club’s second team as ‘different’**) there is set to be a massive tug of war over the title of national champions, and with qualification for both next year’s EUCR-W (three spots) and WUCC (one spot) on the line, the stakes are that little bit higher.

The participants in this battle royale have been known since our regional qualifiers took place last month. Travelling from the East are Ranelagh 1 and 2, XVI and Dublin Gravity, while in the West we have hosts PELT 1 and 2, Rebel and Ballincollig. A betting man would stick their house on a PELT vs Ranelagh final and a rematch of last year, but the other six challengers will look to upset the status quo and cause a shock.

Here’s our rundown of the division based off seed:

1 – PELT (Limerick)

Last year those messers from Munster shocked the WORLD (or, Irish Ultimate) by taking down a stacked Ranelagh side that boasted almost half the Ireland Men’s WUGC team to win their first All-Ireland. And they didn’t just beat them, they did it comfortably, finally managing to shake off their ‘bottlers’ tag and announcing themselves as top dogs in the country.

Since that day, they’ve gone on to compete at EUCF, win bronze at Windmill and battle it out with the UK’s best at EUCR-W, finishing third. The club, made up of an extremely tight knit group of players who have battled with one another since they were freshers in Uni will no doubt be hungry to repeat their win from last year and show they’re still number one.

With club talisman and captain Padraig Sweeney pulling the strings as the axis-handler combining with the work-horse ethic from players like Eoghan Lawlor, Dave Smyth and Jamie Chambers along with the unpredictable nature of Niall McCarthy. They could be considered almost unstoppable on their day. Add John Doherty, fresh from a stint with the AUDL into the equation and things really get interesting.

2 – Ranelagh (Dublin)

A wounded animal. This is a team that is hurting. After the bitter disappointment of missing out on EUCF qualification last month, the Lagh are looking to take their frustrations out on all who stand against them come AIUC.

Last year, as heavy favourites, Ranelagh walked past every team that faced them on the way to the finals, conceding only 12 points all weekend in the lead up before falling to their Limerick rivals. This year, they club are smarter, more aware and prepared for what lies ahead. With already one scalp over their counterparts in the AIUL, there is a sense of belief that they can take the trophy back to Diceys Sunday evening.

Under the tutelage of Cork bai Matthew Feely, this rather new-look Ranelagh side boasts many talents like the cohesive combo of Keith Mernagh and Liam Fletcher, the powerful Ross Andreucetti and the reserved yet uncontrollable Ronan Callaghan. Expect them to act as the fire to PELT’s ice.

3 – PELT 2 (Limerick)

In what may surprise some, PELT’s second team secured a top 3 seed by finishing second at regionals, besting a number of first team clubs. How this team will actually look, I do not know, but expect a number of athletic young talents and future first teamers combined with some calm headed experience to back them up.

I can see this going two ways, PELT 2 will either sink like a stone, finishing 7/8th or like their first team before them, rise up to the challenge and shock all. I do think a semi-final place is out of their reach however.

Not just an Ultimate journalist Aidan Kelly gets up for Ranelagh at UKU Tour 3 this year. Photo by Claire Baker.

4 – Rebel 1 (Cork)

Are they a fallen giant or simply a sleeping one? Rebel have had a rather odd few years, losing a number of their younger talents to other clubs has meant that they’ve had to focus on farming more in order to keep their club’s ethos alive.

Despite this, they have still been able to fight for themselves, finishing third last year. This season, we haven’t really gotten a chance to see the best of this Cork outfit, and this could be their biggest weapon. Underestimate the tricky reds at your peril, as they are equipped with enough experience and clever players to punish you.

Captained by stalwart Brian T O’Callaghan and American import Drew Moore, the side will no doubt be backed up by ever-presents Donal Murray, Michael ‘Fada’ McGrath and Lee Griffin.

5 – XVI 1 (Dublin)

The young guns’ first foray with Div 1 after winning Division 2 last year will be an interesting one. A wild-card of sorts, it’s hard to know where they will end up. A semi-final could easily beckon if they play to their potential, and after a long season where they’ve managed to get many competitive games under the belt as a club, there’s no reason why they can’t.

With a gung-ho, nothing to lose attitude, combined with youthful exuberance. If they was ever a team that would cause an upset to the top two, it would be XVI.

Featuring an abundance of underage and u24 internationals, with at least 5 European Junior silver medalists including Paul McDonough, Conor O’Doherty and James O’Donovan. These kids have nothing to lose. With senior international Ian French also kitting out to play for the side at AIUC, there’s some major scope for the boys to turn heads this weekend.

6 – Ballincollig (Cork)

Rebel’s little brother (Although I doubt they want me calling them that…) up until now have never quite reached the heights they seemed destined for when they came together three years ago. Much like their fellow Corkians (Corkites? Corkies?) the club always seems to have an eye on two or three years down the road, rather than now.

Sustainability is rare in Ultimate, as players tend to have quite short-sighted goals. Instead Ballincollig tend to look to embed younger players like Eanan Cronin, Killian Leahy and Adam Purcell and combine them with their experienced leaders such as Ben Noonan and Donnchadh Mc Auliffe.

7 – Ranelagh 2 (Dublin)

Another former champion hoping to upset everyone (including their own club mates) and take the crown. A rougher diamond than their first team, expect Ranelagh 2 to be well-drilled and hard working. Whether they can compete with the top end of the division is tough to say, as they narrowly lost to XVI at regionals last month after leading for most of the game.

Armed with seasoned battlers in the form of Alan Kelly, Brian Boyle and Cormac Bourke, experience will play a massive part in how the side performs over the weekend.

8 – Gravity 1 (Dublin)

Qualifying thanks to a massive universe point win against the veterans of Masterclass, Gravity will look to test themselves against the best the country has to offer. With a massive roster turnover from last season, I count only four members of the previous year’s first team playing this time round.

With an ethos that looks to play with joy and combines it with positive spirit, I feel Gravity will need to keep their heads up in order to compete at AIUC. Their pool is a tough one and I must admit it’s hard to see where the wins will come from on day one, however if they go in with the right mindset, learn from any mistakes and adjust to their opponents, they could make a big push for wins on day two. A semi final spot is a lot to ask, but fifth isn’t an unreachable target for them.

Led by Gearóid Ó Fearghaíl and Matthew Colfer, expect to see big performances out of their rookie players Shane Corcoran and Dean McCreary, who are both capable of making big plays despite only playing a number of months.

Aidan’s predicted finish:

1 – Ranelagh 1

2 – PELT 1

3 – XVI

4 – Ballincollig 1

5 – Ranelagh 2

6 – Rebel 1

7 – PELT 2

8 – Gravity 1

*Ranelagh 2014, Jabba 2015, PELT 2016

**Ranelagh 2 won in 2013″

Feature photo by Claire Baker.

UKU Nationals 2017 – A Review

Mixed, Nationals, Open, Review, Tournament Reports, Uncategorized, womens

Another season is in the books and, for most sides, the off-season is now underway. Sean Colfer takes a look at what happened in Birmingham this weekend, and what it might mean for the European Championships and moving forward for UK Ultimate.

UKU Nationals 2017 – Predictions

Mixed, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, womens

Now that we’ve published all three previews, here’s what our ShowGame team think will happen at Nationals. We’ll give you a projected top four in every division with some discussion afterwards, and a collection of things to watch as well. Hopefully we don’t look too ridiculous come Monday evening…

MIXED

    DP

1. Black Eagles
2. Reading
3. JR
4. Glasgow

    Sean

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. SMOG
4. Deep Space

    Hani

1. Black Eagles
2. Reading
3. SMOG
4. JR

    Aidan

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. Deep Space
4. Mighty Hucks

    Harry

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. SMOG
4. Deep Space

So Sean and Harry see the division shaking out the same way – they actually predicted the whole eight the same way, so either great minds think alike or small minds rarely differ on that. No one sees a final other than Reading vs Black Eagles, and for good reason; they look like the class of the division.

After that, there’s a pretty diverse opinion base. All seven UK teams are mentioned by someone, which really just goes to show how good and how unpredictable the division is. It’s the most exciting one by a distance, given the dominance of Iceni and Clapham. Gravity are the unknown quantity so it’s understandable that no one has included them, but they’ll surely still be a tough challenge for whoever they’re playing.

WOMEN’S

    DP

1. Iceni
2. SYC
3. Rebel
4. Bristol

    Sean

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

    Hani

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

    Aidan

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. Rebel
4. SYC

    Harry

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

This is rather more uniform. Hani, Sean and Harry all see the tournament going to seed, while DP and Aidan fancy Rebel to break into the top four at Brighton’s expense. Only DP has backed a final other than Iceni vs Bristol, as he believes that SYC will ride their superb regular season to a UKU Nationals final. While there doesn’t seem to be scope for many upsets here, all that means is that they’ll be even bigger if and when they do happen!

OPEN

    DP

1. Clapham
2. Fire
3. Chevron
4. Ranelagh

    Sean

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. Ranelagh
4. EMO

    Hani

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. PELT
4. Ranelagh

    Aidan

1. Clapham
2. Ranelagh
3. Chevron
4. PELT

    Harry

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. EMO
4. PELT

Only DP and Aidan see Clapham playing anyone other than Chevron, and it should be noted that they’ve picked the teams they play with. Be that as it may, no one sees Clapham having their streak broken, even the most partisan or prognosticator. PELT and Ranelagh are strongly fancied to throw a spanner into the works of UK Ultimate with a number of appearances in top fours, and EMO are backed to continue a strong season by reaching the semi-finals by both Sean and Harry (who, in the interests of full disclosure, have both played with EMO before). Surprisingly few appearances for Fire, who usually close strongly. It’ll be interesting to see if they can overcome their customary slow start and finish in the top four as usual.

WHAT TO WATCH

    DP

Chevron have changed their lines this season, and are bringing a larger squad than usual. They played both Fire and Kapow recently and their offence in particular is looking very refined. This could be their best chance in a while to take down Clapham.

    Sean

SMOG have been building for a few seasons. This season all three of their teams looked great throughout the season, and the Mixed team is the jewel in the crown. Their men are almost universally tall, a very useful attribute in Mixed Ultimate, and their women are all confident, good with the disc and comfortable playing with each other. They have all the attributes you’d want in a Mixed Nationals-winning team; their challenge is overcoming two other such teams in the favourites, Black Eagles, and the reigning champs, Reading.

    Aidan

Ranelagh and PELT are both going to be looking to qualify for Euros here, and they’re both good enough to do it. What happens if they face off in the game to go? We promised an Irish invasion, and these lads (and Rebel and Gravity) are here to back that up.

    Harry

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a Brighton team in the Women’s division. This year, they’ve come back, and have had an incredibly strong Tour season, a whole new kit and a new identity with no Brighton Pretty pun; just Brighton. They were second only to Iceni at Tour 1. They’ve been playing with small squads all Tour, meaning they’re made up of a small number of very good, gelled players. If I were to put money on a big upset, it would be on Brighton causing it. Regardless, with players like Hannah Brew, they’ll be really exciting.

UKU Nationals 2017 – Open

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

David “DP” Pryce returns from a successful EuroStars Tour to give his, and some of the team captains’, views on UKU Nationals from the Open division in Birmingham. 

With the regular season over and Regionals decided, we move to the business end of the post season. There was a little controversy ahead of Nationals; the EUF announced, after some confusion, that the EUCR-W would only have four bids in the Men’s division. 

This decision seems a little odd considering the Irish (who sent a team to Frankfurt last year) have been moved into the UK region. To take two bids away seems excessive even with the poor performances from the lower UK teams. 

But it is what it is and, with two Irish Open teams coming to Birmingham, the competition for the four EUCF spots is sure to be intense. Add to this that the exact number of WUCC bids is still unknown, and it becomes apparent that much is on the line this coming weekend.

When talking to Alex Cragg, Fire of London Captain, he remarked that: “It was frustrating to get the change in bid allocation so late and I feel our region is stronger than the four bids suggest. However, nothing has changed about our approach to Nationals, just beat the team in front of you.”

This sentiment was shared by every team captain I spoke to.

It does, however, mean that there is potential for a team to not make EUCF but get to WUCC. In the event that the UK has three WUCC spots and both Irish team finish in top four at Nationals, then the third WUCC spot would most likely be the next UK team at Nationals. That means that every game in this new format matters – from pools, to power pools, and then on to elimination games. So, let’s have a look at those pools and potential power pools.

As is fairly standard, the top two in the primary pools will go into top power pools to reseed the top eight. But teams coming out of the power pools in third or fourth will run the risk of losing out in a crossover. I think these power pools will mostly go to seed (with the only change being a possible top two swap in some pools) with the exception of pool D with favourites Pelt lining up against Devon, Alba and giant killers Reading. Reading having demonstrated they can go toe to toe with the big guns this season, though will be missing some players who have gone to the Mixed team, and Devon are ever-present near the top of Open Tour. Alba are a new, young side from Scotland who feature a number of GB under-24 players and while they’re inexperienced you can bet they’ll also be fearless. This pool could end up very differently to how it started.

One other early match up that is definitely worth watching is the standard UKU Nationals Northern derby between Chevron Action Flash and Manchester in pool C. Both captains brought this game up as their big match up in the pools. Sion Regan, the leader for Manchester, told us that regardless of the opposition “our approach will be to remain focused throughout those matches and make sure we play through our structure and style”. 
And Chevron? “We usually enter the game with a shorter squad than the fellow northerners,” said Mark Penny. “But with numbers looking higher than usual for us we will be looking to really take the game to them with some high intensity defence.”

Power pools onwards is hard to predict with so many potential outcomes clouding things. But, having talked with a few of the captains, we can delve into some common themes.

Who will win overall?
In an ongoing attempt to not make predictions myself I put this question to the captains. Or, rather, I asked whether anyone can beat Clapham. Most captains, including Ranelagh’s Stephen Jones, were brutally honest and pointed out that Reading already have done just that. Jones said that they will “treat it like any other game but are looking forward to showing Hogi what he’s missing back home”. And, banter aside, that is how many teams will be looking to take on the 16-time UK champions. They are not infallible, with a small handful of losses in the past few seasons, but after a trip out to the US Open and another Windmill title in the bag they are undoubtedly strong and deep. This new format might give them some headaches but I would expect their athleticism and robotic structures to win out in the long run. 

Sam Luxa (GB Coach and long term Devon player) will be looking to take Nationals by storm. Photo by Claire Baker for the ShowGame.

A word from the reigning champs?
Ashley Yeo didn’t mince his words, saying “our aim is to win”. But he also showed his experience and mental toughness in noting that they have “certainly been pushed by teams this year at Tour.” And when asked about their recent trip to the US, he remarked that the team is “re-energised towards our push to improve and perform to our best so we’ve certainly improved since we last played most of the UK teams”. Watch out anyone who gets in their way!

Fantasy?
I did bring this up with the captains but most didn’t care so much for it, however Ash did provide a very in depth personal outlook on it:
“In previous years you wouldn’t pick anyone from a team you’d expect to make the top two because of getting four games as opposed to a possible seven out of your player. You’d also expect those teams to get plenty of D line stats in the first two games and O line stats in the last two meaning the points are way too spread around. With the change in schedule this year it does open it up a little more to picking someone from a top team, but I would try to pick solely offensive players from a group of teams that I expect to have competitive games. This is probably in the third to eighth range of teams. Outside of that I’d just go back to high usage rate players on other teams.”

However, no one has of yet stepped up to fill the gap left by the change in TD and website.

Not willing to give much else away …
As a Fire player myself, the captains were a little apprehensive to share much more but I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for answering as much as they did and encourage everyone reading to make sure to watch the two-field coverage from Fanseat of all three divisions here.

Feature photo by Claire Baker by the ShowGame