Out of left field: DU Ultimate Frisbee

DUUFC President Andrew Cleary looks back on the development of the sport in Trinity and why he has high hopes for its future

For many of us uninitiated, frisbee is a summertime staple on the rare occasions the sun decides to show in Ireland, and is a great way of spending time with your dog. While the sport of ultimate frisbee, unfortunately, lacks the presence of our four-legged friends, outgoing Dublin University Ultimate Frisbee Club (DUUFC) President, Andrew Cleary assures us that the sport is no less enjoyable. A competitive team sport, the game shares many similarities with American football in that there are two end zones which players endeavour to catch the disc in one of them to score. Unlike its inspiration, the sport is definitely more fast-paced. “It’s a more fluid game though, with much fewer stoppages so it really gets the heart rate up”, says Cleary. 

Aside from this more competitive nature than throwing a frisbee to your dog, the game requires considerable quick thinking. “Another thing that really differs from the frisbee-throwing-dog-park stereotype is the number of tactics in the sport. You have to be quite tuned in all the time during a match, to avoid getting hit by a flying disc of plastic if nothing else!”. 

While there have been many Trinity students, past and present, who would have joined the club as a novice,  Cleary was fairly experienced when he signed up to the club when he first entered college nearly four years ago and therefore saw the club as a natural fit. “I had played the sport for four years before coming to college, so I mightn’t be the best person to ask this. I joined quite naturally as it was the sport I loved playing in school and had developed a really loved community of friends throughout Ireland in the sport”. Cleary is not shy to give reasons why newcomers, be they experienced or not, should consider joining the club. “If I were to say something to convince someone to join the club though, it would be how welcoming and friendly this community is. Because the community is quite small, we have to pull players from all over the country when we host tournaments”. Naturally, this latter point has brought a few perks, “So now, wherever I travel in Ireland, I know that I have a place to crash or friends to go out with at night”. 

Now that his time in Trinity is drawing to a rather unceremonious end as experienced by many final year students, the outgoing president is rather upbeat about the current atmosphere in the club “I am leaving the club this year as an old, has-been fourth year, but even I can still tell that the atmosphere in the club has never been this fresh and lively”. Praising the effort and participation of some of the Fresh students, both Junior and Senior, Cleary believes their effort has added greatly to the atmosphere and culture of the club “We had a huge influx of first and second years this year, who have integrated super well into the club. Everyone in the club is really friendly and just genuinely enjoys hanging out with each other. The social scene was very active this year with lots of people coming out to training tournaments and socials”. In spite of all this success, Cleary is not resting on his laurels. “The club is really hoping to build on this surge of new players next year and welcome another bunch of members”.

“The atmosphere in the club has never been this fresh and lively”

While procrastination is something that isn’t normally encouraged, the opportunity to kick back and relax is a welcome treat after hours spent in the classroom and studying and Cleary credits the club for facilitating this. “It’s been that procrastination enabler for me that everyone needs in college. Whenever I’ve needed to distance myself from the library, there have always been training or socials or even just going to the gym with clubmates”. The growth of the wider college sporting community in Ireland has also given clubs such as DUUFC and its members the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country. “For extended breaks, heading down to Cork or Limerick for a tournament has been amazing. Tournaments are the perfect way to detach yourself from college because it’s just a bunch of your mates staying in a Travelodge, playing the sport you love, maybe having a cheeky can or two on a Saturday night”.

The presence of large sporting communities such as DUFC, DUAFC, and Trinity GAA does make it difficult for less prominent sports clubs to gain a decent foothold in the wider college community but Cleary insists that all that matters is the people who are behind the table during Freshers’ Week. “We are one of the developing sports in the overall college sporting environment, but we are definitely a very active club. Everyone starts as a complete beginner in college so if people are looking to take up a new sport in college, we are a great choice (no bias!)”. Ultimately, joining a club is what you make of it, argues Cleary, and DUUFC is no exception “It can also get as competitive or as social as you like because there are both serious and fun tournaments on the calendar. We have had club members who started as complete beginners go on to represent Ireland internationally, and we have also had club members go on to play the sport and make new friends in places like Australia, America, Singapore and the list goes on”. 

For those looking to take the next step, the rapid development of the sport has presented serious opportunities to pursue it competitively as Cleary testifies. “There are club teams all across the country that compete nationally and internationally in various really high-level tournaments. There is also the possibility to trial for national teams at different age groups (under-20, under-24, senior) who compete at the highest level against other countries at international tournaments”. That being said, Cleary is quick to point out that while opting for this path is no picnic, it is an opportunity that prospective members should be encouraged to pursue. “These teams are a huge commitment with dedicated gym and conditioning plans and monthly training camps but are incredibly rewarding if you want to be really competitive”. 

Reflecting on how far he has seen the sport come along, Cleary can’t wait to see how much the sport will continue to develop in Trinity and Ireland. “Based on the stories from five years ago, it’s amazing how much the club and the sport have developed. We’ve gone from training on gravel to training on a nice pitch at the new Iveagh Grounds. With this new Trinity Sport indoor facility that is in the works, it’ll be amazing to think about the facilities and space that the club will hopefully have for indoor training sessions and gym work”. The role DUUFC has played in facilitating the development of the sport in Ireland cannot be overlooked according to Carey and he expects a big impact. “This will only push the level of the sport in the country further and further as college really is the equivalent of “grass-roots” for Ultimate Frisbee. Hopefully, this will lead to the club competing at more abroad tournaments in years to come and to our club and national teams performing even better on an international stage”.

Cian Mac Lochlainn

Cian Mac Lochlainn is an Economics and Politics student, and a Contributing Writer for Trinity News.