Ireland U24 Men’s Interview

We’re not just about GB here at tSG HQ. Tadhg Bogan caught up with both Ireland Men’s captains before all three of them flew out to Australia to show the world what the Boys in Green can do. Here’s what they had to say.

Alright, so who are you guys? Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Ferdia Rogers: I’m Ferdia, the Dublin no-craic captain. I started playing Ultimate in school in 2012, and from there have gone on to play college for UCD, club for Ranelagh, and for Ireland a few times.

Dylan Ryan: I’m Dylan, the fun captain from Limerick. I started playing Ultimate in the summer of 2012 in school. Since then, I played college Ultimate with UL and currently play with PELT. I played against Ferdia a good bit and we’ve also played together on Ireland teams most of the way up through our years.

Ferdia: We first met in 2013 as part of the Ireland Junior team, and our relationship just flourished from there. Next thing you know, we’re leading an U24 team together.

Haha – a good balance between work and pleasure so. Seems to be going pretty well so far anyway. So what defines the Ireland U24 Men as a team?

Ferdia:  Kind of the answer in itself really, the fact that we really are a team. It’s often the case where teams just end up being groups of individuals not necessarily fighting for each other, but here we have a great bunch of lads who are working hard through the season to be at their best for everyone else around them. There’s nothing better than looking across the line and thinking to yourself ‘I am going to give everything I have for them’. We’re a tightly-knit unit and that’ll stand to us when the going gets rough.

Dylan: Most of our team has played juniors together so a strong unit was in place and we just built on it.

Not too many teams would be able to boast that. Obviously it would take a bit of time to develop that cohesion, so we’ll start from the beginning. What was it like during that extended trialling period? Could the team bond at all, knowing some people wouldn’t make it?

Dylan: I think everyone on the extended squad wanted it which helped people push each other and work together even more. No one wanted to lose out but no one didn’t want the best for the team.

Ferdia: Yeah, absolutely. Our goal with the extended squad was to develop talent and create relationships between players from across the country who might not get that opportunity otherwise. And with that, to be able to develop their own teams back home and just further increase the standard of Ultimate around the country. And like Dylan said, everyone wanted to push themselves that bit more to be the best.

So the team was already well on the road to being a solid unit after the final cut, even though players are spread across the country?

Dylan: I didn’t find the distance too much of an issue. Ultimate in Ireland is pretty tight knit and everyone kind of knows everyone. So even without a few people never having played together they had an idea of each other whether that be from college or club Ultimate over the year.

Cool, so what have your results and preparation been like leading up to U24s?

Ferdia: Really strong. We sent X and Y teams (of the extended squad) to Tour 1 and they went undefeated for the weekend, bar Team X beating Team Y. They each knocked off one of the GBU24 X/Y teams in the process as well. The final squad was selected after that weekend and made the trip to Tour 2 to compete. Overall, the results were excellent, coming fidth with a big universe point win over Chevron in the last game.

Other than that, we have been training together monthly and been playing club teams in the area. Everyone has been doing gym, fitness, throwing work outside of that while also training with their club or college weekly. 

I think one of our biggest hurdles going into the tournament is the climate change. We’ve been in cold, wet weather for the last while in Ireland but we’re going to be competing in dry heat over there. And naturally the Irish don’t get on too well with the sun.

Dylan: The buy-in from everyone has been great. The entire team is focused towards the same goals so prep has been amazing as Ferdia has said. We have tried our best to prepare for the weather as Ferdia pointed out but it will definitely be a challenge.

Have you been doing anything in particular to prepare for the heat? I know Ferdia, you have a bit of experience with the heat from Royan (France), did you find it had a big effect?

Dylan: Our heat prep has been wearing as many layers as possible. Running sprints in hoodies, pants and zippies is tougher than it sounds haha. Although it won’t match the sun beating down on us, it will at least give us an idea of the discomfort that the heat can bring. Hopefully we will see the benefit of it come game time.

Ferdia: Oh yeah, the heat played a huge factor. Your entire kit would be drenched in sweat after the warm up haha.

I’ve been a bit worried the others might be underestimating how hot it actually will be in Perth, but we’re all going over a few days early to acclimatise and get some reps in, so that should definitely get everyone clued in by game time.

At least there’ll be time to get used to it! So you mentioned the team’s success at Tour 1 & 2, but Ireland has been relatively quiet in the lead up to the tournament, noticeably not going to Bologna for the warm-up. Do you think that could have any impact leading into the tournament or has the squad been keeping sharp in other ways?

Dylan: I wouldn’t say we are worse off for not attending anyway. While it may have been great for a pot shot at the few other teams that went, I think we were OK to play our own game and train ourselves. We have been getting challenge games against the top two clubs (Ranelagh and PELT) in Ireland which helped us improve loads on our weak spots.

Cool, so both of ye have been through several cycles with Ireland (WU23 in London, WUGC 2016, WUBC 2017 for Ferd to name a few). What has it been like being a part of this team in comparison?

Ferdia: Somewhat similar to what I said before, I think one of the biggest challenges for any squad is turning a group of individuals into a team. If there isn’t much chemistry between players, you’re likely not going to succeed. As the youngest player on both the WUGC 2016 and WCBU 2017 team, that was a challenge I experienced first-hand. So this was definitely something I wanted to focus on with regards to our ‘identity’, making sure everyone on this team knows they are in this together.

The last U23 team in London did this really well; everyone enjoyed every minute of the campaign and we came away with great results at the tournament. And I think this U24 team’s cohesion is what has created a superb work ethic for us on and off the pitch.

Dylan: Agree with Ferdia completely. The buy-in from everyone is the biggest challenge and thankfully all the national teams I’ve been on have been great. The 2015 U23 was a team of people who had been through a hard previous campaign (in 2013) and we were lucky enough to be brought up through that to see the driving force needed to make a good team. This year, although a younger crew, have a similar mentality which is great to see.

Speaking of the 2015 squad, you both were key players on that team. How have you found the step up to captaining the 2018 outfit?

Dylan: Jaysus I was only a baby on that team haha! It’s been an interesting change for me anyway. At club and national team level I’ve usually been one of the youngest on the team so it was a change to be one of the older. Thankfully both myself and Ferdia have come off captaining our college teams which helped greatly I found. It’s always a tough challenge to not only focus on your own game but to also rally others to keep going when times get tough.

Ferdia: Yeah, pretty much exactly what Dyl said. My 2015 tournament was cut short by a dangerous play in the very first game against Australia, tearing an ACJ ligament in my shoulder. Probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced, training year round for one tournament, and having that opportunity taken away by someone else being reckless.

I think that experience though, of being forced to be a voice on the sideline for the team rather than making an impact on the pitch, has helped me become a better leader for those around me and has had a positive impact on my game too.

Nice, so moving onto the tournament itself, are you guys excited? Any big names, teams or old friends/rivals you’re looking forward to playing against?

Dylan:  I’m very excited. Myself and Ferdia have been chatting about and planning this team for about two years now but it still kind of crept up on me. Only a few days ago it hit me that I was flying in a week or two.  As for teams I want to play, I do love taking shots at the top teams, so I’d love a crack at the States and Canada. Our Australia game last U23s was amazing and with them being hosts it would be another cracker I’d say.

Ferdia: Can’t wait. Yeah, there are a few European players I’d like to match up against and see if they live up to all the hype they get. I feel like Irish players are a little bit undervalued in the European scene so there’s no better way to make a statement than to dominate a match-up time and time again.

In terms of teams I’m looking forward to playing or would like to play – China, Colombia, teams with very different styles to what we’re used to over here.

And obviously, the big one, GB. I’m sure they’ll want another crack at us after their earlier defeats in the season. It’ll be nice to see how the two full squads match up when it matters.

Speaking of GB and China, we’ve drawn them in our pool along with the Swiss. Any thoughts about the pool?

Ferdia: I’m happy with the draw. China will provide a new challenge for most of us in showcasing East Asian ultimate, something few-to-none of us have experienced before.

Switzerland is a team that a lot of the Junior lads will know, having come up through the same system since U17s in 2012 and playing each other time and time again.

And GB, well I think we’re quite similar teams coming from similar Ultimate communities. It’ll be a great test for both squads. Ireland has had the upper hand on GB the last few times we’ve played (Windmill 2016, WCBU 2017, Tour 1 2017); I’m sure they’ll be eager to cut that streak short.

Cool, so the big one, how do ye think Ireland will do? Any aims or aspirations for the tournament?

Ferdia: Ah, that is such a tough question, there are so many unknowns. As a team, we haven’t set a target for where we want to finish, we’re just going to focus on doing the small things well. If we can do that, the results will come.

Dylan: Yeah, take every game as it comes and play our best with minimal errors. Leave it all on the pitch. So long as we give it our all, we’ll be grand.

Cool, we’ll finish up with this, any words you want to give to the fans who will be getting up early/late to follow our progress?

Dylan: Thanks for all the support so far. Hopefully we will go over and take a few scalps for ye!

Ferdia: Ya, hopefully we get streamed for you guys, we’ll keep you up to date on our page. Cheers!

And any final thoughts/hashtags?

Dylan: #sun #cool

Ferdia: Aside from the usual, #RoadToPerth #WU24UC2018 #sandjob #FearMe

To keep up with Ireland during the tournament, you can follow them on Facebook. Best of luck to everyone heading over for the tournament, and we’ll see you all in Perth!