All-Ireland Indoor Ultimate Championships 2017 Preview

Tadhg Bogan previews AIUC Indoors 2017.

Another year, another Indoor All-Irelands hosted by PELT Ultimate, who’d have thought it? Yes, back again on the University Of Limerick campus, the 2017 edition of the All-Ireland Indoor Ultimate Championships is set to take place on the 28th and 29th of January on Ireland’s Sporting Campus. 24 teams for the Open division and 10 teams in the Women’s division are set to take over the UL Arena to find this year’s champions. The AIUC Indoors titles in both the Open and Women’s division have bounced around the country over the past few years, but every tournament has been filled with big, athletic plays, spicy throws, and the intense, stylish, and well spirited brand of Irish Ultimate we have all come to know. With the addition of new up and coming teams (combined with the unpredictable nature of indoor Ultimate), this year’s tournament is sure to live up to its elite expectations.

Kicking things off with the Women’s division, and this year’s final looks set to be yet another showdown between Rebel Ultimate and Dublin Gravity. The two teams met in last year’s final where the Dublin side were able to edge out a tight universe point victory, despite a resilient comeback from Corkonians. Rebel’s head coach and player Leanne O’Neill will be looking for redemption returning with a staggering 4 teams. With the Cork girls having recently notched a win against the Gravity in the final of All-Ireland Outdoor Ultimate Championships back in August, they could be back  in the driving seat heading into the weekend. As a result of last year’s finish, Rebel 1 and Rebel 2 find themselves seeded second and third, bookended by champions Gravity 1 and Gravity 2. We will have to wait and see if Gravity Captain Kate Boylan can lead her side to victory once again, and the chance to avenge the loss to Rebel from Outdoor All-Irelands will only add fuel to their fire. Should these two meet again in this year’s final, here’s some of what to expect:

However, while the two club giants may already have eyes on each other for the final, waiting in the wings to jump on any slip ups are PELT, the recently rebranded Tribe, and the newly formed Uproar. Most of the women of PELT will be looking to capitalize on a very strong second placed finish with the University of Limerick at Women’s Indoor Intervarsities. Áine Ahern returns to the helm of this team filled with domestic Limerick talent, an upset could easily be in store from the Limerick ladies. In a similar situation is Tribe from Galway. With most of the team comprised of the Galway girls who represented NUIG at the same IVs, Captain Siri Rosendahl and her squad will also be looking to build on this performance. The final entry to the Women’s division sees the debut of Estelle Murchen’s Uproar Women’s team. With the success of the Uproar mixed team from last year’s All-Ireland Mixed Outdoor Championships, the club has been able to expand into the Women’s division for the first time and girls will be looking to build the team, while still to announcing themselves to the division.

Moving swiftly onto the Open division, this year sees 10 clubs sending a total of 24 teams to do battle. Starting with the defending champions, Ballincollig Ultimate find themselves as the rightfully earned top seeds going into the tournament. After memorable battles against Blade in the finals

and PELT in the semi-finals from last year, it’s hard to imagine the young club not finishing well again this year. However, with the possibility of a few key talents missing from last year, it could be tough for Coach Ben Noonan and Captain Shane Doyle to keep their boys in the top spot. The local threat to ‘Collig’s title are of course Cork rivals Rebel Ultimate. Rebel have always consistently performed well at AIUC Indoors and with an abundance of talent such as John “Doc” Doherty and Brian O’Callaghan at their disposal, it’s to be expected that they put in another solid performance, likely improving on last year’s sixth place finish.

Nevertheless, the always-infallible seedings predicts hosts PELT Ultimate as next in line to take ‘Collig’s crown. When it comes to PELT and Indoor Ultimate, it has been hit and miss in recent times. In the past three years, the club has found itself crashing out in the semis twice and the finals once, all on Universe point. Recently though, the club has broken that glass ceiling as they captured the All-Ireland Outdoor Open Division 1 Championship back in September, so it could be their time. Unfortunately for the Shannonsiders though, it is a feat that they will have to do without their Captain Padraig Sweeney and key big man Mark Fanning, who are both lost to injury.

A noticeable absence from this year’s tournament is last year’s finalists Blade, a Dublin team which had mainly consisted of Ranelagh Ultimate players. With Ranelagh opting to not send a team to AIUC Indoors again this year, the result is their players mixing in with the other clubs around Dublin for the tournament. One main example of this is with the school club Gonzaga, as alumni of the college Ferdia Rodgers and Dave Ferguson will link up with their past coach Marko Early and his outfit of school players. This boost to an already consistently strong ‘Zaga side should see them remain a threat to all the established club teams. Don’t be under any illusion that the Dublin scene is a done deal though, as there is still the presence of Dublin Gravity, and Indoor specific team Derezzed. With the stacked Derezzed side usually placing in the top five in recent years, and coming into the tournament seeded third, it’s hard to imagine them not putting on a good show yet again. While for Gravity, an unfortunate performance from last year has seen them slide down the seeding table this year. With the ever expanding player base in Dublin though, there should be plenty of opportunities for improvement.

Sticking with Dublin, a new club making their indoor debut at AIUC Indoors is XVI. Captained by Paul MacDonagh, the young XVI teams are provisionally starting low down the table, as the tournament’s seedings are last year’s results. However, don’t be surprised when the reigning All-Ireland Outdoor Div. 2 champions have shot up the table come the Sunday. In a similar low-seeding situation is the reigning Indoor Intervarsity Champions Trinity College Dublin. Hot off their victory at IVs, the Trinity side will be testing themselves in the club scene at the tournament. This is a venture that Trinity are doing without their Captain David Stokes, and with many of Trinity’s players already involved in their own clubs, it’ll be interesting to see where their allegiances lie on the day of the tournament.

And finally, there are the unpredictables of Tribe and Uproar. The newly rebranded Tribe, similar to their female counterparts, are a club team with most of their players coming from the University team the NUIG Panthers. The team was unfortunate at Open Indoor Intervarsities to miss out on the top four. With the addition of some talents from outside of the NUIG set up, the capability to score some upsets could well be within the sights of coaches Eoghan Staunton and Fergal Moran. The same can also be said for Uproar. With Uproar based primarily in Kildare, they have the ability to foster a relatively large player base from the surrounding areas, nearby Universities, and colleges. As a result, Captain Terry McMahon and Coach Glenn Darcy could boast the talent to have some upsets in store as well, and with this being the last tournament for a while for long time players Conor Phelan and Darragh Herd, the Uproar boys will want to be putting in a performance to do them proud.

A lot of high hopes for teams across the divisions then. Obviously, not everyone can ascend to the top of their divisions and there will be some devastating losses along the way. With most clubs entering at least two teams, and some even managing to have four, such as Rebel in both the Women’s and Open division, along with PELT in the Open, the different clubs’ player base will be widely spread out across their teams. As a result, there can often be the case of some 2nd teams being stronger than other 1st teams. This, accompanied with the possibility of some clubs evenly spreading their players across two teams instead of having a first and second team (and the unofficial Saturday night party always there to tempt players), it makes predicting the tournament somewhat difficult. Never one to shy away from a challenge though, I’ll still give it a stab…

Here are my predictions for the Top 5:

Women’s Division:

  1. Rebel 1
  2. Gravity 1
  3. Rebel 2
  4. PELT 1
  5. Gravity 2

Open Division:

  1. Rebel 1
  2. PELT 1
  3. Derezzed
  4. Ballincollig 1
  5. Trinity College Dublin 1

So there you have it! With Indoors being the highly unpredictable game it is, God only knows what will actually happen this weekend. Rest a sure however, this year’s AIUC Indoors will still be full of all the big plays, bids and craic that goes along with it! And as a reminder of what to look forward to this weekend, here’s some of last year’s highlights, but until then, see you all in Limerick!

Feature image by Mark Earley for Get Horizontal.