Irish Mixed team make history in Calafell
In the Open Division, a young and inexperienced Irish team made the journey and found the going tough. They were beaten well by most opponents, despite starting every game strongly and showing much potential throughout. Winning just one game during the week was frustrating for a group of players that will feel they should have beaten Hungary, a team that pipped them in a sudden death game on the Saturday and beat them by 4 on the Sunday. They did not face Portugal, who finished below them but would likely have beaten a nation whose focus was on the Mixed division, much like Ireland’s.
|Daragh Ó’ Céilleachair makes a bid against Turkey (Spirit winners) in pool stages.|
The quarter-finals were the cause of a Captain’s Meeting and much discussion at the end of the days play on day 2 of the tournament. Due to various teams holding seed and a number of odd results the schedule saw teams who had already played each other in pool play meet in the quarter-finals. Sweden, among others, objected but given that the schedule had been emailed to all captains and agreed upon they were left with little choice to stick by it. While this was undoubtedly fair, it gave the draw a somewhat lopsided look with Russia, Germany and a (very) under-seeded Sweden all on one side. However, as many people noted, you need to beat the best to be the best.
|Seamus Murray sends another disc long against GB in their QF match up.|
Portugal were the team in their way of a berth in the final. Another trip to the Arena for what promised to be a cracking match up. The teams had met twice previously, with Ireland having won both games in testing conditions and with Portugal missing some big players. This time the wind was a factor once more, but perhaps not as much as expected. Both teams began nervously, trading turnovers but it was David Pimenta who stood out, as he single-handedly tried to swing the game Portugal’s way with a number of big blocks and grabs. However, the strength of Ireland’s women, and indeed their offence, began to shine through. They went 3 points up late in the game and despite a Portuguese fightback, won out to ensure a place in the final, and a medal.
|Sweden and Ireland after the Mixed division final.|
The game began cagily. Both teams turned over in odd ways – misread discs, overthrown hucks and some drops. Eventually Sweden punched in the goal and were on the scoreboard. Point two saw them break the Irish offence again and so the theme for the game was set. Ireland could not get the space they were used to around their handler reset and their female players were facing their toughest battle yet. A slow start was unlike them and they appeared a little rattled, making mistakes where previously they hadn’t. A few dropped discs, a couple of marginal calls and all under sustained Swedish pressure left Ireland chasing the game and the more they chased the more the fight slipped away from them. It was a frustrating and disappointing end to a brilliant season and talking to the players after the game they felt like they’d under performed on the big stage. Sweden can take credit for a lot of the problems caused but Ireland will have to shoulder some of it too.
|Ireland Mixed take Silver at ECBU.|
Having watched from the sidelines it was easier to immediately understand how much their achievement means for them as players and indeed for Irish Ultimate as a whole. This is the first team to come home from any major championship with a medal and they won it in style, finishing the season with only a handful of losses. They played with swagger, aggression and Spirit. They won over opposition teams and impartial fans with their honesty and sense of team. What’s more they did it all with a legion of fans at home willing them on, cheering their every move and hoping they’d bring something back to Ireland once the sand settled in Spain.
Looking further down the line this result is an example to young players of what can be achieved with hard work, tactical nous and a focus on putting team chemistry ahead of all else. There are many Irish teams setting off this summer, all younger than most of this Mixed Beach team and no doubt keen to replicate their efforts. If they look at how the team applied themselves and how they behaved they will learn a lot. This Irish team is one for the Irish community to be proud of, one the three captains can look back on with pride and one which has set a high bar for teams to follow. Here’s hoping it’s just a start…
Yesterday was a massive day for the community making that $15,000 in a couple days for ulti.tv, looking forward to WG streaming! Like, share, comment and contribute! DP @ tSG.