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Irish team going for gold at Roller Derby World Cup

We spoke to Fiona Carton as Team Ireland get set to take on the world in Texas.

The World Cup reckons for Ireland's Roller Derby team.
The World Cup reckons for Ireland's Roller Derby team.
Image: Amanda R. Wagner

THERE CAN’T BE many people on the planet for whom the path to the pinnacle of their sport began with watching a Drew Barrymore movie but that’s exactly the road less travelled by Fiona Carton as she, and the rest of Team Ireland, get set to take part in the Roller Derby World Cup this weekend.

Roller Derby is a full-contact sport played by two teams of five members skating anti-clockwise around a track.

Games consists of a series of ‘jams’ during which both teams designate one player (the ‘jammer’) who scores by lapping members of the other team.

Part of sport involves taking on a pseudonym – Carton’s is Malibruise Stacey – and she skates alongside the likes of Phantom Jemerald, Dirty Knees Lou-eez and Stabba.

The contact aspect of the sport comes as teams try to stop the opposing jammer from lapping them meaning teams have to play attack and defence at the same time with a variety of different shapes and sizes on a team usually proving beneficial.

This ESPN short from 2008 demonstrates just how physical it can get:

Source: harvesct/YouTube

But back to Carton and Drew Barrymore:

“As a kid I loved roller blading,” she told TheScore.ie this week.

“I was sitting in one night and watching a film called ‘Whip It’ with Drew Barrymore and I thought ‘that looks fun.’ I didn’t realise it was a real sport though but, when I found out it was and you could play it in Ireland, I knew I had to give it a go.

“That was about four years ago and I’ve been playing ever since.”

chemikill hazard v rogue runner Chemikill Hazard in action for Ireland. Source: Wicked Shamrock Photography

For Carton, one of the main reasons she loves the sport is that it allows people – though especially women – of all ages, all levels of fitness and ability to take part. Even those who may never have had an interest in sport before.

“Roller Derby is open to anyone over the age of 18 in Ireland and I’d hands down recommend it to anyone. Besides keeping you active, it’s loads of fun.

“Plus, it can be very difficult, especially if you weren’t sporty in school, to take up a traditional sport like rugby or football because everyone playing it as an adult already knows the rules.

“Because Roller Derby is such a new sport, everyone is in the exact same boat when they turn up so they don’t feel as bad about having to learn from scratch.

“For that reason, we’ll have 19-year olds at their peak fitness right through to 40-year olds who’ve never played a sport in their life coming to us and they’re all equally welcome because different aspects of the sport require different strengths.

“We have people who are tall and small and they move differently because of that. Also, some people are good at moving fast while others are brilliant at moving slowly and that can be just as important in Roller Derby.”

pack The action during a typical jam. Source: Wicked Shamrock Photography

Carton says the sport can be as cheap or expensive as a player wants it to be with some clubs renting equipment from €5-€10 per training session while buying the equipment can cost, on average, around €150-€200. But really, says Carton, it’s up to each individual player to decide how deep into the sport they want to go.

With her Dublin Roller Derby team, the 26-year old has already travelled around Europe five or six times and each trip involves quite a bit of planning and fundraising. However, that’s all part of the do-it-yourself-ethos that sees players help out with finding sponsorship, engaging in PR and promoting the sport, all while having to train for games.

_70Z1939 Jewel Suffer in action versus the West Indies Source: Wicked Shamrock Photography

This weekend, Carton and 13 other players will represent Team Ireland at the World Cup which takes place in Texas from Thursday to Sunday. It’s her first trip Stateside for Roller Derby and, though she’s excited about Ireland’s prospects, she insists the team will take each game jam-by-jam.

“We’re in Group 6 with England, Spain and Germany. Only the top two go through but we’re definitely hoping to get out of the group and then, who knows, maybe we can take home the gold medal.

“Our first goal though is to get out of the group.”

You can find more info on Roller Derby in Ireland here.

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Steve O'Rourke

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