2019 marked a standout year for Overwatch in Ireland. Fielding a team for the Overwatch World Cup for the first time since 2016, they spearheaded a massive social media campaign and sold enough jerseys to not only fund their way to Blizzcon, but raised an excess €2,500 for Down Syndrome Ireland. Irish presence in the esports scene has exploded in the months since the tournament with Irish players competing on 15 Open Division Teams, four have which made the Season One playoffs.
One of these teams — the Angry Titans: Olympians — finished the regular season with a record of 11-1 and earned a second-place finish in the European Open Division. This team features three Irish players and an Irish head coach. Brian “Scrivzy” Scriven coached the World Cup team which included current Olympians DPS Aaron “FlexG” Kay and Main Tank Liam “Liam_OW” O’Donnell. The third Irish player is Daniel “Grathen” McGrath. These three have found major success on the Olympians, and look to keep it going through the playoffs which start February 22.
The Game Haus was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Liam regarding Contenders, Open Division, the World Cup, and Irish Overwatch as a whole.
The Lad Himself
Liam is an 18-year old Tank player who also goes by the name “DiveRein” due to his tendency to get Reinhardt into unexpected locations and catch the enemy off-guard. He started Overwatch in the 2016 Summer Games event where he“found Reinhardt and [has]been playing him non stop since then. And that’s sort of what kept me attracted to the game.” He even made one account where he only played Reinhardt and made it to 4532 SR which was top 20 on the EU servers.
His first memory of gaming was trying to play Crash Bash on the PS1 and failing since his brothers had given him an unplugged controller. From that shaky start, he never was in the competitive gaming scene until Overwatch. “I started taking a different approach to games, and then I suddenly became a lot better at every other one. I started playing League, as my first PC game, and that sort of set the foundation for transferring over to Overwatch.”
Although competitive gaming wasn’t a big part growing up, traditional sports certainly were. Starting at five years old, he played Gaelic Football and soccer until he was sixteen, often serving as captain or co-captain. With this leadership under his belt, it seems fitting that he has found his way leading his teams through the main tank role.
In this role, he has taken inspiration from Overwatch League Pros both in leadership style and unique playstyles. “I would definitely say Fusions is [one of my inspirations]. Just sort of the way he takes lead of his team from the main tank position, it’s something I’ve admired. And Bumper, just because of his really aggressive Reinhardt doing expected plays and sort of feeding but it’s still sort of works”.
Release the Wolfhounds
As Liam turned 18 the summer before the Overwatch World Cup, he became eligible to perform in the international competition. He said the first few weeks of team trials he was in disbelief. There had been so much hard work put in to get Ireland to that point after missing it for two years. But there was another factor at play. “It’s not very often you can go into a scrim and hear five other Irish accents. And there’s something just, I loved about that.”
Despite not having any Overwatch League or Contenders players on the team, the Wolfhounds set out to make a splash and show the world what they had to offer. This showed up in the six-week trials, where the competition was fierce and the lineup was not decided until the very last day. Afterward, they took a step back to see where the team was and what strategies they needed. Throughout the competition they played off-meta, trusting their coaching and players to go toe-to-toe with the bigger countries. This proved successful in scrims, but they ultimately lost in the first round to a strong Icelandic team. Iceland were Ireland’s scrim partners for the month leading up to the tournament, but despite the unlucky draw, the showing has had incredible effects for them.
Liam noted that since Blizzcon, people have started recognizing him more and getting more traction on his social media. “I started getting Contenders trials and basically just a lot more hype around my name, which is exactly what you need when you’re trying to break into the Contenders scene.” He pointed out how this has happened to many other players from the team as well. Take, for instance, Adam “PureIrish” Healy. Back 9 months ago his name was hardly recognizable but now he is a member of a top Open Division team — one of the scariest teams in Liam’s opinion.
This growth has radiated out into the Irish esports community as well. People started following the team and could see what they had to offer, so there will be more people preparing and trialing for the next World Cup. Ireland will definitely be a team to watch for in 2020 as not only will they have more players and fiercer competition, but they know what they’re doing this time around so things will be even better.
From Ireland to Olympia
In the aftermath of the World Cup, Liam trialed with three different Contenders teams, two of which he made it to the final phase of trials. Despite not quite getting a roster spot, it showed just how close he was and gave him the confidence to push to that next level. And in two weeks time, the Angry Titans academy team may make it through trials and officially be in Contenders.
Talking about the Angry Titans: Olympians, Liam said it was the perfect team for him to join. Not only does it have the name recognition and association with Angry Titans, but they picked up Scrivzy as a coach plus as top players that he was familiar with including Coomber, Knasen and Grathen. Seeing the opportunity to join and lead this high-caliber team, the choice couldn’t have been easier for Liam.
Throughout Open Division, there have been opportunities to face off against Team Ireland players on different teams. The Olympians played against Citizens Seraph (formerly Guys, Dive Widow) two weeks ago, with Liam squaring off against his Wolfhounds tank partner PureIrish. “I really wanted to beat him like really, really wanted to beat him. Not in a mean way or anything just in that competitive friend way. We did that and I was super happy, and he took it well. Now we scrim against them often. Always when we scrim against him, there’s always this extra effort, because you’re playing against a friend, you’re playing against an old teammate, so it’s a really fun environment to be a part of.”
Irish Impact in the Playoffs
The Olympians finished the Open Division season with 11 wins and only one loss, ending up tied for the top spot heading into playoffs. Three more members of the Irish Overwatch community made it into the playoffs as well, with PureIrish on Citizens Seraph, Garfield on Ex Nihilo, and Alex “Mynameisalex” Crook is was the assistant coach for Dreadlords. Headed into the 16-team double-elimination bracket, the field was anyone’s game.
Preparing for the playoffs, Liam expressed just how different preparations for this have been from the World Cup. No longer simply preparing for a one-weekend event, teams must be ready week after week, adapting to new challenges all the time. “You have to be more prepared on more things, you need to have just more knowledge on more maps, and then you need to have more strats for [different scenarios]… It doesn’t change much in how you prep scrim-wise on that sort of thing but it’s definitely a different atmosphere.”
In the second round, the Dreadlords handled Citizens Seraph, giving them a 3-0 loss. Ex Nihilo took a first-round loss to ‘Not in Contenders’ (NiC), who would edge out the Olympians 3-2 in the quarterfinals and finally beat the Dreadlords 3-2 in the semifinals on their way to the Grand Finals. In the loser’s bracket, the Olympians saw a rivalry match against Citizens Seraph, with Liam’s team finding a way to a 3-2 victory once more against PureIrish. But just one match later they fell to the number one seed Ex Oblivione, finishing tied with the Dreadlords for fifth place. Citizens Seraph lost the seventh-place match to the Barcelona Manticores, just barely missing the cutoff for Contenders Trials.
Historic Contenders Trials
Both the Olympians and Dreadlords qualified for Contenders Trials. This was a huge moment for not just these teams, but Irish esports. Liam, Grathen and FlexG are the FIRST IRISH PLAYERS EVER to get into these Trials. Likewise, Scrivzy is the first Irish Head Coach in Contenders Trials, and Mynameisalex is the first Irish Assistant Coach to make it.
The seven teams from Open Division will face off against the five Contenders teams that dropped from the seeding tournament. There is then a 12-team single-elimination bracket in which the top eight teams make it into Contenders. Liam believes they have a real shot at being in that top eight and being the first Irish Contenders players ever.
“I think this week we have six [scrim] blocks against Contenders teams and that’s kind of become the standard. We’ve been playing well in those scrims though we’re getting people coming back and looking to book more… Also I’m getting asked to sub in for Contenders teams so they must be valuing my play.”
For Liam, being able to pursue competitive Overwatch as a career has been a dream. Of course, it has had its challenges, but it looks like the hours are paying off. “There’s been competition games on the weekends, so it’s a little hard to have a social life when you’re scrimming six hours a day. Then you have competition games during the weekends and scrims the nights of the weekend.”
Being the first at anything is no easy feat, but Liam and the Olympians are proving that Irish Overwatch is something to keep an eye on. His thousands of hours on the game have molded him into an incredible young leader, as well as allowing him to mold his own DiveRein playstyle. In the current meta, he is finally back on Reinhardt and the team has run some of these strats successfully in scrims. “They do work, but I can’t talk about them at all or I can’t post them publicly or anything, because playoffs, the playoffs are coming up. So, there will be an overload of social media presence for me as soon as I’m not playing in Open Division.”
Despite its relatively smaller population, Ireland has proven its talent in Overwatch. Their World Cup Team made waves leading up to Blizzcon, and since then there has been an explosion of talent into the European Open Division. Liam and the Olympians may be the first Irish players to make Contenders, but there will surely be more to come in the next couple years.