Irish Roller Derby – An interview

Calgary, Roller Derby World Cup, Irish Roller Derby, Sports Ireland

Irish Roller Derby – An interview

TwoTon Murphy are delighted to support Ireland at the Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary, Canada! Here they fill us in on one of the most exciting and fastest growing sports in the World! You can follow the lads at:

To the uninitiated, how would you describe Roller Derby? 

It’s probably too easy to say it’s the greatest sport there is, I’m sure everyone thinks that about their own game! So, Roller Derby is a full-contact, fast and furious team sport played on a flat track while wearing quad skates. Each team fields five skaters in a series of jams’, each of which will last no longer than two minutes a full game (some of us still call them bouts) is made up of two 30-minute halves. There is one jammer’ and four blockers’ fielded for each team; Jammers wear a star on their helmet and they score the points by lapping members of the opposing team. The blockers’ job is to prevent the rival jammer doing that, while simultaneously assisting their jammer to get past.

In essence both teams play offence and defence at the same time. Hip checks and shoulder hits are legal to slow down or knock an opposing skater off the track. It might seem chaotic at first glance but it’s a fast-moving and tactical sport that provides spectacular action. People often refer to it as ˜rugby on skates’ but a better description is; Speed chess on skates, while someone throws chairs at you! Check out this kick ass video we put together. It’ll give you a better understanding of what we’re at! 🙂

Describe the current state of roller derby, has it increased in popularity in recent years?

Back in its earliest incarnation derby was a co-ed sport, on a banked track, and more like a speed skating event but with thrills and spills. That version became a little theatrical and its popularity waned. But in the 1990s the sport was revived as a serious athletic competition for women, the men’s game only followed later with much help from the women’s leagues. Right now it’s the fastest-growing sport in the world, the number of leagues worldwide grows exponentially each year. It’s still an amateur sport but there’s talk of eligibility for the Olympics in the future and the governing bodies for men’s and women’s derby are at the forefront of its evolution – expect great things!

Your focus is on the world cup in less than two months, what’s the quality of opposition like?

This is the toughest opposition we can honestly say that we’ve ever faced. We have Scotland, Finland, Mexico, and Japan in our group.. Oh, and also the current World Cup holders – USA!! We simply can’t wait, just to be on track with so many of the superstars of men’s roller derby is going to be a great thrill. But we’re not going over there to be starstruck, we’ll give them a game. We’ve faced Scotland, Japan and Finland before and come out on top but nothing is taken for granted, every team will be better and different this time around. The group games are only 30 minutes so we’ve got to take control right from the first whistle.

And how has your preparation been for the World Cup?

We’re really happy with how we’ve gelled as a team. After the 2014 World Cup the squad stayed together and expanded into a training squad with loads of new, talented skaters coming aboard. Our coach, Jessica Rammit, has moulded us into one unit and we’ve really come on in skill and tactics since 2014. It’s a bit tougher to get everyone together for us as we’ve skaters living all over the place, from LA to Limerick. But our motto is:  œN­ neart go cur le ch©ile.There is no strength without unity. And that’s what we are – United.

Ireland's Men's Roller Derby team

Tell us about the format for the World Cup, is it a typical group stages and knockout rounds style tournament? And how many teams are participating?

The sixteen teams that competed in Birmingham in 2014 have been added to it this time around. So there will be twenty-one nations represented in Calgary, a huge growth for the sport in just two years. There group stages to start with. Teams finishing first or second in their respective groups will play off for the cup, in a 3-round structure. On one side of the bracket, the winner of group 1 will play the runner-up from group 2, and the winner from group 4 will play the runner“up from group 3. The other side of the bracket will mirror the first, switching runners-up for winners and vice-versa. There’ll be ranking bouts for third and fourth place group finishers and a consolation for bracket for fifth-placed (and one sixth) teams.

We play Finland, Scotland, Mexico, Japan, and USA in our group.

How do you feel you performed in 2014?

For a nation that had no actual men’s roller derby teams in it at the time, we did pretty well. We were proud to come out with a top-ten place and we’ll be hoping to improve our ranking this time around.

What do you think your team’s greatest strengths are?

We’re much more of a unit than we were in 2014. A lot of the team have played together for years now and several of us started in the sport all at the same time. We know each others’ game well and the level of trust in each other is obvious. Everyone knows their job and can depend other teammates to do theirs, you can’t ask for more than that. It’s that œN­ neart go cur le ch©ile at work!

Roller Derby Calgary, Green Irish Sports T-Shirt, Unique Irish Sports, Indie Sports, Retro Sports T-Shirts

Any opposition you have an eye on coming into the competition?

USA of course, that game is going to be a highlight. They have so many amazing skaters that we’ve been watching for years. How cool that we get to test ourselves against them!

Our opening game is against Finland, which was our last game of the 2014 tournament. We lost that time but evened things up when they played us in Belfast last year. So that should be a great game. We’ll both have a point to prove.

Scotland too should be an interesting meet; we’ve played once before but both teams are so different now that it could easily go either way. In fact, all our group games will be hard. Mexico are a kinda unknown quantity, and Japan are going to be much improved from 2014. We know not to underestimate anyone, that way you get your ass handed to you!

What separates Roller Derby from other sports?

It might just be the smell. Imagine twenty-one teams of sweaty men in a venue and the pong that’s gonna come off their kit by the end of the first day! There are so many things that make derby different but if I had to name just one, I’d say it’s the community spirit. There is no division amongst the players or fans of opposing teams. Once the final whistle goes, everyone parties together and you’ll find yourself congratulating the guy who just put you on your back for his amazing hit.

The ethos of derby is ˜By the skaters, for the skaters’. That means everyone looks out for each other. And all of us who’ve fallen for this amazing game are working together to make it as awesome as it can be, and trying let everyone else know how cool it is too!

Where do you see the sport going in Ireland in the next few years?

The women’s game in Ireland is in rude health with plenty of top-level teams on the go, and that was great for us as the men’s game would never have gotten started without their help and acceptance.

But as it stands, the local men’s teams are still low on numbers. We’re hoping that our exploits will encourage more Irish guys to strap on eight wheels and knock each other about a bit. Right now we’ve only got Calgary on our minds but the work will go on after that. I mean, 2018 isn’t that far away!!!

You can get our Roller Derby World Cup designs here at Available in Men’s & Women’s.


Peter Crowley

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