Aidan Kelly was there for the first standalone Women’s Indoor Nationals in Ireland recently, and he tells us what went on.
Dublin played host to the first ever standalone Women’s Indoor All-Irelands, packed within the iconic walls of Trinity College Dublin. Historically, the competition has usually taken place alongside the Men’s division, but now due to a typically high demand between the two divisions and few suitable venues that can feasibly contain so much high-octane, fast paced Frisbee, a decision was made to split the events by division.
Eleven teams from seven different clubs played across a single day in order to crown the winners and, for most, it was hard to see anything other than a Rebel vs Gravity final, which is typically the decider for most of our domestic Women’s competitions. In fact, other than last year at the same event, where Rebel dominated with two of their own teams playing in the gold medal game, Rebel and Gravity have squared off in pretty much every final across the country they’ve competed at since 2015. And, with the Cork ladies and the hometown heroines kept apart in the initial pools, it would seem likely that the two would be destined to meet in the final once again this time round.
With that said, you would be slightly ignorant to completely disregard the other challengers for the crown. Tribe, hailing from out west, were known to be a thorn in the side to most teams, as the perennial dark horses were known for being a formidable and tight knit unit, containing many players from the National University of Ireland Galway. Trinity College themselves, fresh off winning Women’s Indoor Intervarsities, had also thrown themselves into the ring with the idea of testing themselves at a bigger stage. It would have also been possible for history to repeat itself in some form as we could have seen one of the ‘big two’ fall to the other’s second team, as they both have proved historically to contain a wonderful amount of depth!
However, the biggest potential usurper to the throne was quickly revealed to be BOLT, a team mostly made up of former/current University of Limerick players with a wealth of international experience. Having breezed through their first four group games with a goal difference of +56, heads were well and truly turned in the lead up to the pool decider with Rebel. From up in the viewing gallery, there were more than a few mumbles from supporters and players alike who believed that they could have the Champions’ number, and for awhile they just may have. In an early afternoon epic, Rebel edged out a universe point encounter by the skin of their teeth (11-10), to ensure they avoided their long-term rivals in the semis.
In the other end of the draw, Dublin Gravity made it through the group with little challenge as they bested a trio of second teams in the form of Rebel 2 (revenge!), Gravity 2 and Tribe 2 before flexing their bottle against the potential banana skin of Tribe’s first team. Despite the Galway girls managing to put home as many points as the three teams before them combined (six), Gravity were just much too strong and experienced for them and topped the group comfortably.
As the semis rolled around, we saw a reversal of the final group fixtures. BOLT would now have to face Gravity in a clash of the elements, while a clash between Galway and Cork would ensue in the form of Tribe and Rebel. In the end, the two more experienced favourites avoided any shocks despite valiant efforts from BOLT and Tribe, who provided tough competition throughout. Once again, Rebel vs Gravity was booked for the grand finale.
On paper, leading into the match one would have seen Gravity as slight favourites. Rebel were missing a number of their leading stars, while the Dubliners were on fire by the end of their semi and looked almost unstoppable. But, never the ones to shy away from a fight, it was the Munster women who started off the stronger. Going ahead early and following it up with a quick break, Rebel worked hard, refusing to easily allow the disc to be given away in order to maintain their lead as they matched and possibly even surpassed Gravity’s intensity with relative ease.
Pushed from the front by captain Emma Healy, who looked to inspire those round her with some insanely safe hands and inch perfect hammers, Rebel found themselves 5-4 up, but there was still a long way to go in the game. And from here, Gravity somehow found another gear as they slotted home their O and followed it up with two quick breaks out of nowhere to flip the game on its head. Suddenly it was 6-5 to Gravity, and Rebel had been completely sucker punched.
Indoors is a crazy game. In these tight games you can be on top and time would slow down to almost a complete halt. But when you’re losing, everything speeds up to the extent where you really need to show composure to avoid it getting the better of you. After another turn Rebel attempted to stop the rot by switching up their defence. With a passive endzone flood, they looked to force Gravity to pass it across their front endzone for what felt like 500 passes in the hopes of tiring out the offensive team and giving them a chance at potentially capitalising on any errors. But with the composure, wit and skill on display thanks to Gravity’s stars, such as Jane Linehan and Fiona Mernagh and punctuated by the unpredictable yet seemingly effortless nature of Ireland’s best talent (and eventual MVP of the final) Áine Gilheany, even a cohesive unit such as Rebel couldn’t contain what was to come, as they found their way through the defensive structure.
Rebel couldn’t get their break, and at this stage they needed several if they were to come back and break Gravity hearts. With time ticking away, both teams displayed wonderful offensive prowess which saw a number of points flow by without a single turn, and as they game died out, Gravity punched home the decisive final score to win their second Indoor All-Ireland title in three years, 14-9.
Overall, a successful event ran wonderfully by Dublin Women’s Ultimate. It was great to showcase the Women’s Division in Ireland and it was positive to see a number of different clubs putting out performances. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the 2018 season pans out, and if one thing is for sure, we can see Rebel regrouping and ready to try take back the top spot in Ireland. But will they be alone in striving to unseat Gravity?
Main photo also by Conor Phelan.