Mark Earley tells us about Irish open teams and the challenges they face on the road to European Ultimate Championship Series.
Last Friday night saw the final game of a three team round robin take place in Dublin, Ireland. The Open teams involved were playing for a spot at EUCR-S in Bern this August with the long-term goal of securing a spot at xEUCF in Bordeaux. In effect they were qualifying for a qualifying tournament.
There are lots of reasons for this. Firstly, Ireland’s performance at previous European club competition is practically non-existent. Rarely has an Open team come from Ireland to compete at EUCC or xEUCF. Ally this to the fact that the national Open team has not improved on 2007’s 6thplace finish and it looks like the Open division teams merit little more than one spot at a qualifying tournament. Furthermore, Ireland has moved region. Irish teams used to be a part of the EUCR-W region, which uses the final standings of UK Nationals as qualification. However, the Irish Flying Disc Association decided that it would be in the clubs’ collective best interests to look to qualify elsewhere. At the time this was a wise move with teams rarely finishing higher than the 12-16 bracket at A Tour. Whats more, it was thought that the variety of European competition would stand to Ireland’s best players, not to mention the chance to play Ultimate in a warmer climate! As a result, Ireland’s clubs now play in the South region along with Italy, France and Switzerland.
|Irish Ultimate Frisbee (IFDA)
Over the past few years it has become apparent that Irish teams can, and do, hold their own when competing against the top clubs in the UK. While no team has managed a win against the ‘big two’ of Clapham and Chevron, teams like Ranelagh, Paddy Murphy, Dublin Ultimate and Rebel Ultimate have picked off wins against most of the chasing pack at some point or another. With the strength of Irish university Ultimate proving itself (most recently courtesy of the ever-impressive UCC Ultimate) it will be interesting to see if this will translate up to club form this summer, which has brought people to wonder if the IFDA’s decision to change region was the correct one.
The UK has 6 places available to Open teams where the South region has but 4. Furthermore, the style of Ultimate played in the UK is one that Irish teams are both accustomed to playing against and to playing themselves. With UK Tour set to be as competitive as we have seen in a long time it’s hard to tell how Ranelagh and Rebel will fare. With Clapham sending two teams, Chevron building on European silver medals, and a host of teams impressing pre-season including Ka-Pow who have recruited strongly, Fire, always there or thereabouts and last year’s surprise package DED, there will be an intriguing power struggle in the top 8.
So how does that compare to the South? Well, the top Swiss teams are among the strongest in Europe with FAB and Freespeed consistently dangerous. Crazy Dogs are another excellent outfit, whose Juniors program is producing very tangible results and it would be hard to overlook Solebang, another Swiss powerhouse. Italian teams are traditionally temperamental and it’s hard to tell how they will perform but in CUSB Bologna and Cota Rica they have two teams full of athletic ability and skill. Finally, the French. French Ultimate has flattered to deceive for a while now, but as seen in 2011 when the Open team picked off some huge scalps, the produce of their successful Juniors teams is beginning to make it’s presence felt at Open level. Tchac are an example of this and Friselis, reigning French champions are another side with obvious pedigree. Ultimate Vibration might not be the force they once were but along with Iznogood, have ample experience to run with any strong team. All of these teams are competing for 4 spots in Bern.
Which brings us back to Dublin last Friday. Going into the game there was little to separate the two teams involved. Rebel Ultimate have dominated Irish Ultimate for a few years now, winning most domestic tournaments in all divisions. Their Open team lost the finals of both the Indoor and the Outdoor All-Ireland Championships last year (one to Broc and one to Ranelagh) but would argue that they didn’t play their best, especially in the outdoor final. Ranelagh are their main rival and the Cork team currently has a 4-1 record against them, the most recent win coming in February’s Indoors final, albeit against a weakened Ranelagh squad. With the focus this season thus far on university Ultimate, both teams have only played one competitive game, against Pelt Ultimate from Limerick, which they both won with ease, so the stage was set for a good battle.
Despite the cold and windy conditions approximately 50 fans turned up to watch the game in Dublin and they were treated to a great battle. The game started in sunshine with a gentle crosswind (that by the end of the game was a strong, cold wind) and with Ranelagh on offence. Rebel came out fired up and broke to score the first point. The game settled a little and both offences took control, with the teams trading after Rebel’s early break. Ranelagh got a break back and after a few more scores took half 9-7. The second half proved a slightly more cagey affair with both teams able to go on runs both due to big Ds and some unforced turns. First was Ranelagh who courtesy of some huge plays from young guns Rob Holland and Robbie Brennan jumped out to a 4 point lead to go 12-8 up. The strong wind was having more of an effect and Rebel decided to introduce their zone. It was an inspired decision and some huge Ds from John Doc and Mark Fanning got them to within 1 score. At 12-11, in a game to 14 it was all to play for and Rebel had their tails up. Ranelagh were able to close the door though and despite more big bids from the Cork team Ranelagh veteran Dominck Smyth broke the force for the match winner to another young player Cillian Flynn. 14-11 to the Dublin team.
So, this August Ranelagh will travel south to Bern where they will face very stiff competition for the chance to represent Ireland at European clubs top table. With three UK Tour competitions to come it will be a battle-hardened team by the time August comes around and not one to be taken lightly.
Watch out for Ranelagh at Open Tour 1 at the end of May in London. Have something to say? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to like, share, tweet and contribute!