Navigating to Norway: Team Ireland

On July 8-9 2017, 15 national teams from all over Europe will compete in Oslo, Norway for the title of European Champion. The first article in our European Games 2017 series is on Team Ireland.

Roster

Conor Ardill
Kerry Aziz
Matt Bateman
Martina Brazdova
Kevin Carew
Bláthnaid Cluskey
Ross Edgar
Julia Fernández
Grace Foster
Akos Fülöp
Kit Gallagher
Emma Goodwin
Eamonn Harrison
Rosie Inman
Allen Kinnin
Gleison Malheiros
Tara McDonald
Jodie Mee
Hugh Phipps
Laura Schäfer
Stefan “Stevo Scheurer

Interview with head coach Bex McLaughlin

Interviewed by Lena Mandahus

Quidditch Post: How are you preparing your team for European Games (EG)?
McLaughlin: Team Ireland (TIRE) has been training together in Dublin. We had two weekends of trials, and then a weekend training camp in June.  We’re a month away from the games and the squad is also meeting in Belfast, and playing together at Steel City Cup in Sheffield. I can safely say TIRE is the most prepared it has been so far.

QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
McLaughlin: With the stacked pool format, I confidently have Ireland performing well on Day One. Coming in as Head Coach, before I saw the depth in talent in Ireland, my aim was to get Team Ireland their first match win. That has now been massively surpassed, and I am hoping the training will kick in, the squad keep their heads, and we get much better results than any previous incarnation of TIRE.

QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
McLaughlin: Personally, I wanted a TIRE vs. Flying Dutchmen [Editor’s Note: Flying Dutchmen is the name for the Dutch national team] rematch and am very happy the format allows for that. The inaugural TIRE squad were 30-30 against the Dutch when they caught the snitch [at European Games 2015] in Sarteano; we’ve come such a long way since then I hope the results will be different this time around. Playing France would be excellent too, simply because I know the Team UK  supporters would really get behind their closest neighbour playing one of their biggest rivals, which would be an electric atmosphere for many of the Irish squad who haven’t played in a major event before.

Tara McDonald playing in the closely-fought and loudly-supported match against Slovenia at the IQA World Cup 2016. | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
McLaughlin: While everyone who was selected for the final 21 attended a trial, we’ve not had everyone train together yet. However, with a chaser line from Queen’s University Belfast Quidditch Team who we lovingly call The Ulster Boys with good synergy and coordination already, a large part of the rest of the team from Dublin Draíochta Dragons Quidditch (who went 1-4 at European Quidditch Cup 2017, impressive for a brand new team), and experienced beaters who can pull the whole team together, [not training together] is not a huge issue as I see it.

I would say the other challenge has been the climate. Shockingly, it rains a lot in Ireland and a few of the trials and training days have been cut a bit short by inclement weather. However, that time was used for team bonding as we went to the pub early instead.

QP: What are the strengths of your team? Are there any key players (or underrated players) we should watch out for?
McLaughlin: The strengths of Team Ireland are: a strong chaser corps across all genders, experienced beaters, adaptable seekers, and a physical keeper line. There’s no single “star player” as everyone on the team brings something the table. However, I will say that former Team Austria player, Dublin Quidditch founder, and QIRE President Stevo Scheurer really sets an example to all with enthusiasm and skill on the pitch, and a sunny disposition that brings the best from everyone on the squad.

Stevo Scheurer at the 2016 IQA Quidditch World Cup | Photo Credit: Teresa Filz

QP: How did your selection process work? I heard you tried to select a lot of people who are Irish (and based in Ireland) to help growth.
McLaughlin: Team Ireland held two weekends of trials in Dublin in March. These were well-attended by players from the two Irish clubs, some players interested in starting their own teams in Ireland to gain experience, and players from the United Kingdom. From these, the coaching staff (myself, Stevo Scheurer, and Kerry Aziz), selected 21 players and the reserves for the team. While we did hold the thought of developing Irish quidditch in our minds, only Rosie Inman (who plays for Swansea Seven Swans) and Hugh Phipps (who plays for Manchester Manticores) made the cut from British-based players in the quaffle line due to the strength of the talent that has been cultivated in Dublin and Belfast. The male and non-binary beaters we have all are very experienced with Tara McDonald, Aziz, Jodie Mee, and Eamonn Harrison having played for TIRE at World Cup 2016.

Analysis

by Lena Mandahus

After coming in 11th place at European Games 2015 and 20th at World Cup 2016, both of which were the second-to-last spots at those tournaments, Team Ireland will be keen to improve on their previous international performances.

The Irish national team is bringing a selection of very experienced UKbased beaters, as well as chasers playing in Ireland who benefit from their rugby background.

The beater department holds very strong and seasoned players such as Kerry Aziz (Southampton Quidditch Club), Matt Bateman (London Unspeakables), and Jodie Mee (Bristol Brizzlebears). All these players are sure to bring tactics, technique, and good communication into a relatively new team.

Jodie Mee beating for Bristol Brizzlebears | Photo Credit: Sam Instone

On the chaser side, the well-rounded Rosie Inman (Swansea Seven Swans) stands out. She knows when to drive, is a good tackler as well as ball handler, and her understanding of the game and communication skills are beneficial to the team. Hugh Phipps from the Manchester Manticores also plays an important role in coordinating the team on the pitch.

In addition, there are also Irelandbased players who ought to be highlighted. Former rugby player Ross Edgar (Queen’s University Belfast Quidditch Club) is a talented driver who, in the short time he has been playing, has quickly learned how to organise his team. Bláthnaid Cluskey (Dublin Draíochta Dragons) is small and might seem inconspicuous, but is quick, good onball, and always knows how to position herself well.

With regular trainings together before the tournament, as well as many new talents on the team, it will be interesting to see how far Ireland can get in Oslo. Ireland will be looking to record their first competitive win at European Games 2017, and they even have a realistic chance of topping their group; however, winning a match against one of the top six teams on Day Two seems unlikely.

Stevo Scheurer contributed reporting

Editor’s Note: Interviews were conducted in the weeks leading up to the tournament; therefore, some content and timelines mentioned reflect the current state as of the time of the interview and not as of time of publication.