Ranelagh Ultimate Frisbee club were crowned as the champions of Europe this week with a one-point victory over the London-based club Clapham.
The European Championships took place outside Venice. It was a tournament to remember for the boys of Dublin 6, as Ranelagh became the first Irish side to reach a European final. After winning, Ranelagh's Sam Murphy was voted MVP of the tournament.
What makes this feat more impressive is that Clapham have held a stranglehold on the competition winning the 10 of the past 11 championships. Aidan Kelly, a member of the winning team spoke to Balls.ie and stated that the final was the toughest game for them this year.
Absolutely that would be the toughest game, the final which we won by a point, 15 - 14, and we never beat Clapham before historically, so we played them a lot, maybe two or three times a year, we never beaten them before we beat them in the final, where it matters the most is huge.
This proved to be a great achievement to the club considering they first qualified to the tournament in 2019. After having a taste of the higher level, they decided to make a push for a medal and stayed focused through the numerous lockdowns through 2020 via group chats. Their efforts were awarded with a fourth place last year and they made the breakthrough this time out.
For an ultimate frisbee match it is seven a side with rolling subs when the team scores a point. The game either lasts 100 minutes or ends when a side scores their fifteenth point like Ranelagh did in the final. The Dublin club played 22 players in total throughout the tournament in Italy.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of the sport for new fans is that there is no official to referee the match. Instead, players are expected to call their own fouls. Aidan believes that it is an important aspect to the sport.
I think it's an important aspect of the sport in some regards because it teaches fair play and there's no-one to really cheat outwardly. There are rare cases where you have tension or people in the moment making rash decisions, you'll be amazed at how often it is resolved in the right way.
The Ranelagh club man believes that the sport requires a different skillset to those on display in the GAA and thinks that it is a lot harder than people imagine.
If someone randomly said it to you, you'd imagine it to be throwing in the park, there's a lot of straight-line speed especially in lateral speed, you're playing one on one down on the pitch and their goal is obviously to stop you from keeping possession.
There is a certain level of contact when the disc goes into the air, you're jostling and competing for the disc.
Aidan hopes that with their latest victory and the women's national team's being crowned champions of Europe in 2019, that the sport will continue to grow. There is currently under 500 players of the sport in the country so any level of exposure will be huge for the community.
Being a niche sport, I think any exposure we can get is huge and even getting some people to talk about this, even if it gets two or three school kids to start playing, their PE teacher to start playing it at lunch time will be huge.
Another thing that would definitely improve its exposure it is it being included in the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee already recognise it as an official sport. It missed out on being selected for the upcoming Paris Olympics but it has a chance to be included in the next games in Los Angeles in 2028.
Ranelagh will be defending their crown next year at the University of Limerick. Aidan believes that the university's sports facilities are "the best in Europe". With it being on home soil, Ranelagh will be hoping for a big crowd to cheer them on.
Photo of the victorious team was taken by Emma Healy