TWO representatives of Limerick Roller Girls have been called up to the Irish roller derby squad, giving them a real possibility of competing at the Roller Derby World Cup later this year.
Caroline Brady and Aisling Guider, founder members of the Limerick club, were picked for the national squad from a selection pool of more than 70 skaters who entered tryouts, admitting that they were both stunned and privileged to get the call.
Both ladies spoke to the Limerick Post about their call-up to the national side, the work that lies ahead, the progress made by Limerick Roller Girls and the growth in popularity of roller derby.
Congratulations to both of you on making the Ireland squad. What was it like for you when you had found out that you had got the call-up?
Caroline: It was kind of surreal because we knew the day we were going to get our e-mails to tell us whether we made it or not. It was bizarre because it was about three years of hard work put into getting to that point and you never actually think you’re going to do it, so then to be told that you made it is earth shattering really, in a good way.
Aisling: The level of the tryouts was very high. We had skaters coming from England and the USA to try out, as well as all over Ireland, so you don’t really think that you’re going to be up to par for what they need. There’s always that doubt in your mind but it’s lovely to have your hard work recognised. People can see that you’ve put that work in and you’ve got the necessary skills to represent your country.
Caroline: We’re probably the youngest league represented on the squad. You’re looking at leagues that have a lot more years under their belt and a lot more experienced coaches so it was extra special to make it.
Aisling: Caroline and I have been there from the very beginning so we’ve seen the club go from infancy all the way up. It’s the next step now, trying to get represented on an international level.
How many people are there in the national squad and how big was the panel that the coaches had to choose from in order to get onto the squad?
Aisling: There were 60 people [trying out] at the event and there were video submissions as well, so it was probably 70-plus people who tried out.
Caroline: They decided to select a squad of 32 and that’s the training squad for the next two years.
Aisling: There’s a World Cup in December over in Texas and a team of 20 will be selected for that, so we’ll find that out later in the year.
Caroline: We’ll find out in July or so and we have a lot of hard work to do between now and then to hopefully make it to the World Cup.
Will the Irish team be in action between now and then?
Caroline: We’ve no confirmed games yet but there’s a few different possibilities in the pipeline at the moment. There will possibly be games over the summer, maybe here but there’s talks of a game over in England as well. I think France had enquired about a game.
Aisling: There’s a lot of things that hopefully we’re going to try and get. We do get training sessions all together as a squad and we’re trying to get together at least every two months, but it would be great to get a game under our belts before the World Cup. It’s something that we’re working on.
One year ago you were facing into your first bout in the UL Sport Arena. How has the club fared since then?
Caroline: It’s gone great. It’s been fantastic and the article in the Limerick Post [5 January 2013] did huge benefit for our club. It really brought us to the attention of a lot of people that had never heard of us before. We grew pretty rapidly since then, almost too fast in a way because we actually had to catch our tails a little bit. We now have more than 60 members in the club.
Aisling: We have a B team that’s playing and competing and we also have a men’s team in formation as well. There’s a lot going on at the moment and we’re constantly looking for more people to come in and help us. It’s run by ourselves, all by volunteers. We constantly need people to come in and not just to play but to help out, whether it’s being a non-skating official or a referee, whether it’s helping with fundraisers or our training structure. We’re always looking for new members to come along and help us out.
Caroline: We only have a few guys at the moment but one of our guys has just returned from the men’s World Cup. On top of that, our head of referee training has been selected to be a line-up manager for the Irish women’s team and another one of our members was selected to be team manager. We now have five internationals in our league.
In terms of action on the track, how did Limerick Roller Girls fare out last year? Following on from that first bout in April, how did the year go for you?
Caroline: The year went OK. It was kind of a mixed bag. We had more losses than we had wins unfortunately but I think our level did increase a lot.
Aisling: With the nature of the club, people are constantly moving around. Unfortunately some skaters had to leave Limerick and move on to other areas, so we’re constantly changing our ranks, but we always need to have a nurturing atmosphere in our club, bring new members in and train them up the ranks as well. There was a lot of learning and growth over the year.
Caroline: It may have been only me and Aisling who made it onto the Irish squad but we actually had 10 people try out, so that means we had 10 people who felt they were of a suitable standard that they could go and try out for the national team. That shows the progress of the club as well and we have a B team now so there’s a lot more opportunities for people to play and progress.
Does the fact that you have so many members and a second team indicate that the sport is growing in popularity amongst people in Limerick?
Caroline: Definitely. We’re attracting the attention of a lot of different sections of society now. When we started off it was very much women in their early 20s, but more and more people are realising that they can dip their toes into whatever level they want. The likes of me and Aisling want to take it to as high a level as we can go and hopefully play at an international level. Then we have people who see it as a really nice way to spend a few hours a week as a bit of a pastime. People have definitely opened their eyes to it and it’s grown massively. A lot more people know what it is now. Before they didn’t have a clue. Once upon a time people would see us on roller skates and say ‘wow, look at your roller skates’. Now they say ‘oh, do you play roller derby?’, which is fun!
Finally, is the Limerick club setting out on a league campaign again?
Caroline: We took part in an All-Ireland tournament recently in Belfast. [Limerick lost 267-30 to eventual winners Dublin Roller Derby A in their first fixture before victories over DRD’s B team (144-92) and Cork City Firebirds (123-28) gave them third place in the All-Ireland Roller Derby tournament in Belfast.] There were six teams competing and hopefully if it happens again the following year there will be a lot more teams. Hopefully the new clubs like Tipperary and Galway will be on board next year.
Aisling: Our B team has already had their first game of the season and we’ll be starting in the next month or two.
Caroline: We’ll have an action-packed year. There’s talks of games in Newcastle, Germany, Finland and hopefully a few at home as well to keep the home crowd entertained.