A Tough Pill to Swallow

A Tour, An Irish Eye, Chevron, Fire of London, GB, Irish Ultimate, London's Calling, Ranelagh, Rebel Ultimate, Tournament Reports

Mark Earley kicks off our T1 review week with how the Irish lads did at London’s Calling.

Three Irish teams travelled to London for UKU Tour 1 at the start of June and all three returned to Ireland licking their wounds and eagerly counting the days until their next outing. Tour is a tough animal – you show a weakness and you get savaged. No team gives you anything and the higher you go up the ladder, the stiffer the competition gets. Irish teams know this and it appeals to their stubborn, physical and hard-working approach to the sport. Indeed, much of what Irish Ultimate has achieved over the past decade has been built on foundations picked up over freezing cold weekends in Mansfield, sun drenched days in Cardiff and at windblown Brit Opens. So, why the poor results this time around? Well before trying to answer that let’s look at how the three teams fared.


Ireland U-23 Open went into B Tour expected to challenge for the title and with the added bonus of a run out against their British counterparts in a show game. Saturday went to plan, with no team able to run with them and they coasted into the quarters not having conceded more than 6 points in any one the game. The show game saw the highly fancied GB team rattled until half, which they took by 1 point, and after which they powered on to win the game 15-9. Ireland fought hard and showed athleticism, a decent work ethic and a sense of team that will stand to them in Toronto. However, on Sunday morning it all came apart in spectacular fashion. Complacency set in and LeedsLeedsLeeds took full advantage, racing to a 4-0 lead and not looking back. Ireland went on to win their final two games, both by a single point.

Highlights of the show game between Ireland U-23 & GB U-23
Lorcan Murray, one of the team’s captains, explained that they had got a lot from what he called ‘a disappointing but necessary lesson in what it takes to succeed in Toronto’. Murray went on to say that collectively they ‘realised the potential of our squad and what it felt like when we played to the best of our potential. More importantly we realised the difference between confidence (Saturday morning) and complacency (Sunday morning)’. Furthermore he said team chemistry was improving, something that will have a big part to play come July – ‘Coming away from our first tournament as a full squad there was a collective awareness of the personality of our team. Positivity is the fuel that fires us. When we’re leading we’re happy, joking and boisterous when we take big deficits we turned on each other and fell into the trap of our own frustrations’. The Irish youngsters will be back for Tour 2 where Murray says their goals are straightforward – ‘to go undefeated and get a shot at some Tour A standard opposition, but more vitally than that is our aim to maintain the attitude and approach we take when we are winning’.

Some of the U-23s pose with the St Albans Mayor
Ranelagh went into the weekend confident of returning to the top 8 where they made their presence felt last season, finishing an Irish-team-high of 5th place. However, it just never quite clicked for the Dublin-based team. An opening day defeat to Chevvy was as heavy as it was hard to take. Unforced errors were punished by a smooth and confident Chevron O and suddenly the score was 5-0. Ranelagh regrouped but cough up that big a lead to any top 8 team and you won’t be let back in. Next up were Brighton, a team Ranelagh beat for the first time in 2012. This time the Dubliners controlled the game from the start but come 12-9 and with the cap set at 13, two huge Brighton Ds and two uncharacteristic errors saw them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A third flat display rounded out the day as Fire 1 ran Ranelagh ragged on the way to a 15-5 win. Vice-captain Sam Mehigan said of their day one opponents – ‘the standard in the top 8 was very high. Chevvy and Fire thoroughly outperformed us. They had strong defences and Chevvy especially had a very clinical offence’.

Peter Forde of Ranelagh holsters the throw to Sam Mehigan

Day two was a welcome improvement for a Ranelagh team missing a couple of players, but once again it began on the wrong foot with a sudden death loss to a wily Bear Cavalry team, lead by a virtuoso performance by Dave Tyler – capped off with a point block and layout grab in the final point. DED bore the brunt of Ranelagh’s frustrations and were beaten 15-6, a result Mehigan was pleased with. ‘DED beat us a few times last season in games we still carry with us but after four straight losses on the weekend, they got the wrong end of our frustration and we beat them by a large margin’. That left an all-Irish battle for 13thplace. Mehigan explained how the win went for his team – ‘The last game of the weekend was the 1st ever meeting of Ranelagh and Rebel on foreign shores. The first half saw lots of trading with each team having a few small runs and thus the lead changed hands a few times. The second half saw a Ranelagh run that got us a margin which we managed to hold onto to win by 6’.


Looking back on the weekend the team will be disappointed having been beaten badly by two top teams and losing closely to teams they would prefer to be beating. According to Mehigan they will be back with renewed focus come Tour 2 – ‘We didn’t do as well as we feel we could have, so it was a bit disappointing. After just two days for the dust to settle it’s too soon to have identified our goals, but for sure we’ll be looking to get our performance consistently to the level we showed in patches at Tour 1’.

Rebel Ultimate and Irish Mixed Beach team player Darragh Kelleher goes up

Rebel will arguably be the least concerned with their results this being their debut in the A Tour and only the start of their season. The Cork outfit are consistently raising the bar for others in Ireland, thrive on new challenges and have many of the UCC Ultimate team on their roster so it came as little surprise to see them competing in the top bracket of UK Ultimate. They approached the tournament looking to make 9th place their own but, much like Ranelagh, shipped a couple of heavy losses that disrupted their plans. With a somewhat depleted roster due to the Irish U-23s team presence, a certain team member sleeping in and a couple of late injuries the Corkonians struggled with numbers.


On Saturday the team in red made light work of both Devon 1 and Tooting Tigers but lost heavily to Bear Cavalry and as a result faced a tricky crossover against Brighton on Sunday morning. The southern English team beat the southern Irish team by a big margin meaning Fire 2 were their next opponents. Rebel regrouped and got involved in a dogfight with the London team. After a few tight calls and a turn by each team the sudden death point finished in Rebels favour and the ‘Irish Classico’, as detailed earlier, was on. A tight first half ended with an injury to leader Brian O’Callaghan and Ranelagh never looked back.

Rebel & Ranelagh team photo – a rarity! 

Speaking to Donal Murray, one of the team’s leadership, he was pleased with the weekend as a whole, specifically as a way of bedding in new players – ‘The weekend was all that we could have hoped for: a smoothly run tournament, beautiful weather, and tough long games against teams we knew well, not so well, or not at all. Some of our players got some knocks or had a few niggles, but nobody got badly injured during the tournament. As well as our regulars, some players were making their Rebel debut, some their Rebel comeback, while others just finished exams. We didn’t have strategies and systems drilled in, but we had a few talks before and during the weekend on team goals, individual goals, and the attitude we expected.  We were quite happy with how our teammates improved with these over the weekend’.


He added that there was work to do – ‘Our goal of 9th didn’t quite materialise, but a mixture of results ensured a thorough investigation of where we’re currently at as an open team and as a club’. Murray was impressed with the standard of the Tour – ‘Every team we played had some fantastic athleticism, great throws and clear systems. Some had lines, some had their own rotation system, some had clearly defined plays and defences while others had looser styles. It was great to play against some players who have become household names, to still see women compete in the open division at A tour, to see a very high standard of spirit with this year’s new rules, and to finally get a crack of A tour teams’. While Rebel wont be back for Tour 2 as it’s too close to their annual trip to Amsterdam for Windmill Windup, they hope to make Tour 3; ‘Our goal is the same as always, finish as high as possible and improve as individuals and as a team.  One or two more specific goals will be specified to the players in trainings and in the run up to the tournament’.

There’s no doubting the talent pool in Ireland, nor the enthusiasm but Tour 1 will surely have blunted some of the Irish confidence. In terms of the reasons, they are many – from injuries to complacency – but as each captain/leader has made clear, the teams will come back with renewed determination looking to get back on the horse, so to speak! It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the Tour pans out. 

Photos courtesy of Niall McCarney, Cynthia Lo & Andrew Moss
Video courtesy of Felix Shardlow at Push Pass Productions

Look forward to seeing Irish teams at T2 and hearing more from Mark! Like, share and more in the right hand pane, more T1 reviews coming up. DP @ tSG. 

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