September 6, 2012 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 2 comments
This weekend in Dublin, teams will take the field for the All-Ireland Ultimate Championships (AIUC) — the Irish version of the Club Championships here in the United States. Unlike in the US, which has held a Club tournament since 1979, this will be Ireland’s fourth Championship tournament — and by far their biggest to date.
If you’ve only played Ultimate in the United States or Canada, it can be difficult to realize just how different the sport’s development is in other countries. Mark Earley, one of the AIUC’s Tournament Directors, talked to Ultiworld yesterday from Dublin. He explained some of the history of Irish Ultimate.
“We’ve existed as an Ultimate community since 1995,” he said, noting that, at first, the sport was played mostly by expatriates from the UK, Australia, and the US living in Dublin — along with a few “eager” Irish players. But now it is played by hundreds of players across the country.
The AIUC will host 16 Open teams and 6 Women’s teams (the country’s three women’s teams are splitting their squads for the tournament). This marks the first time there will be a Women’s division at the tournament. “We’ve always had a huge disparity between the open and the women’s division,” said Earley. “It’s something the Irish Flying Disc Association has been working on.” There is no mixed division, which has its own Championship held separately, due to the size of the community.
However, the tournament had just 11 teams attending last year, a sign of how quickly Irish Ultimate is growing. And this year’s Championships are geographically better represented than ever before. They’ve landed some well-known sponsors as well — including Five Ultimate and Ulticards, along with local businesses and organizations.
The tournament, in contrast to the US Club Championships, will not have observers. In fact, Earley said, “I don’t know of any tournaments in Europe that have observers.”
But he is in favor of adding them in the future, a hot topic in Europe. “I really don’t see what the big issues are,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who have strong opinions on either side. Personally I’ve always had the idea of running an observed tournament here in Dublin just to see who’d come.”
Observers Referees [ed. note: see comments] didn’t seem to have the same effect on the game when it was tried in the UK, where Irish teams frequently travel for the best local competition. “There were some players who were willing to pull jerseys, push people, you know,” said Earley, adding that it left a bad taste in the mouth of many players (although they did like the increased pace of the game). Generally, he said, European Ultimate is played in “a different, less physical way” than it is at the high levels in the US and Canada.
Earley will be playing with the two seed Ranelagh, a Dublin team formed in the Fall of 2011, which finished fifth on the UK tour this year, the highest placing for an Irish team to date.