As part of our series previewing EUCF, certified Irishman Aidan Kelly looks into the condition of Ireland’s two representatives in Frankfurt; Rebel in the Mixed division, and PELT in the Open division.
There is a strange feeling of optimism in Irish Ultimate these days. Fresh from some fantastic international results at both WUGC and WJUC, as well as UKU Tour, our small nation feels like they really can take on the world when it comes to our fair sport. However, historically, no matter how successful a year we’ve had, there has always been one event that we couldn’t stamp our mark on, until 2016: Euros.
The European Ultimate Championship Finals (and its precursors, EUC Regionals) have never truly been considered a priority for Irish teams when planning their season goals, which comes down to a number of reasons. The biggest and simplest reason is that with all the time and money that goes into national team campaigns and Tour, it’s tough to guarantee a competitive team for EUCR, and with Ireland sitting in the southern region alongside European powerhouses such as Freespeed, CUSB and FAB, qualification would require massive commitment.
However, this year we’ve been amazingly lucky to see not just one, but two Irish teams buck the trend of regional defeats and make it to the promised lands of EUCF. Rebel Ultimate, from down in Cork, bested all the competition at Mixed Regionals with five wins from five to become the first Irish qualifiers and PELT, current All-Ireland Open champions, followed suit just a week later by finishing fourth to clinch an Open spot with a small but determined squad.
Domestically, both clubs are known to be a credit to Irish Ultimate. Rebel compete as a club in not only all three major divisions, but are also one of the only clubs who run an established Juniors program. In 2016, their Women’s team took home the All-Ireland title for first time, establishing a dominance in the division after two or three years of knocking on the door. Despite a disappointing third place finish at All-Ireland Mixed back in April, the results from EUCR show that Rebel are a club that have picked themselves up and will hope to give a good account of themselves this weekend. With a squad of 17, made up of an abundance of Ireland internationals combined with some energetic young talent, it’s set to be a great experience for the team if they can replicate their regional form.
PELT, on the other hand can be described in one word; battlers. In previous years, you could be forgiven if you replaced the ‘a’ in that word with an ‘o’, as, despite their unmatched determination and sheer intensity, whenever it seemed like the lads from Limerick were in control, they would find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, as they’ve proved this year, this is no longer an unofficial part of the PELT mantra. Results at EUCR saw the Limerick Citay Boyos take both Freespeed and Italians Cota Rica down on double game point in games that truly showed their mettle. This was only punctuated by their emphatic win at All-Ireland Open, as they were crowned champions for the first time after a comprehensive win over heavy favourites Ranelagh. With this momentum behind them, I’m incredibly excited to see how they fare in Frankfurt. Grouped with beatable sides like Fire of London (sorry DP) and Iznogood, to whom PELT lost 10-12 at EUCR, a bit of the luck of the Irish could see them really make waves across Europe, if they haven’t done so already.
(Begrudging, editor forced) predictions: Rebel eighth, PELT seventh