Inter-Collegiate Championship 2016-17
21 League of Legends teams from 15 colleges across Ireland spent the months of March and April battling for glory on the Rift in the 2017 Irish Collegiate Championship. The competition in both Division 1 and Division 2 was fierce, and in the end we saw Maynooth University defeat Trinity College Dublin to take home the premier prize, while National College of Ireland took down Dublin City University to claim the Division 2 crown. Here is a brief look at the path each of the finalists took throughout their ICC journey.
Both the NCI Panthers and the DCU Titans began their tournament in Group B of Division 2, hoping to place in the top 3 to qualify for the knockout stages. NCI were the pre-tournament favourites, with many players anticipated to be the strongest at their respective roles. DCU were an unknown side, with a lot of potential on paper. NCI opened strongly, with repeated 2-0 victories over their opponents. DCU found life in Group B just a bit trickier, with a close call against Trinity in a tense 2-1 series. Both teams remained undefeated heading into their clash, to determine which team topped the group. NCI were forced to swap substitutes throughout the series, providing the perfect opportunity for DCU to strike. NCI put up a brave fight, managing to steal away a game with some amazing plays from mid laner Nureha Fox(See clip below), but it wasn’t enough against an impressive DCU team who took the match 2-1. They would exit the group stage in 1st place, qualifying automatically for the semi-finals. NCI’s 2nd place finish would mean they faced a longer path to the finals.
This path began with a match against Maynooth University, who themselves had scraped through a real battle in Group A. NCI were out for redemption after their group stage loss, and Maynooth could not withstand the onslaught of a team with a point to prove. 2 games later, NCI remained standing, preparing to face UCC in a semi-final clash. UCC had slowly been developing over the group stage into a real force in Division 2, to the point where their final run of games allowed them to top the group as a whole. Once again a confident NCI team found their tournament lives threatened, the teams trading back-and-forth brutally throughout the series. NCI overpowered UCC in game 1. UCC responded by swapping their mid laner and AD carry, throwing their opponents off-guard and snatching away game 2. Able to refocus for the final game, NCI showed their true strength and powered to the series victory, 2-1.
On the other side of the bracket, the DCU Titans had only one opponent between them and the finals. That team? The other DCU side, hoping to be the ones to represent their university in the Division 2 finals. In game 1, the Titans came in like a hurricane, completely annihilating their DCU counterparts. The disrespect coming from the opposing DCU side was punished wholly and absolutely. The Titans faltered game 2 as their opponents bounced back strongly. But in the end, the Titans were the ones reigning supreme, showing they were not to be taken lightly and landing a place in the final with a 2-1 victory.
The rematch was set. The trash talk was being thrown down. Panthers vs. Titans in a best of 5 series. NCI had their lineup set for this series, hoping this was the key to overcoming their adversaries from before. However, once again the Titans found a way to best them with a clinical performance in the opening game. 1-0 DCU. Unshaken, NCI quickly struck back, deconstructing the strategy from before that had defeated them and overpowering the Titans. 1-1. Game 3 was no different, as DCU struggled to find answers to the ferocious offence of the Panthers. 2-1. Finally the Titans began to reclaim lost ground to NCI in the fourth game, only to have their progress eliminated due to a technical issue causing the game to be restarted. It appeared as if they would be left to wallow in despair and NCI took the lead in the remade Game 4. Objective after objective went the way of the Panthers. Yet somehow, through a series of teamfight miracles carried by ADC VoltumNex, the Titans turned the ship around. And not gradually, this was a lightning quick reversal of the game state. Without any warning, suddenly DCU had levelled the series at 2-2, meaning the match would all come down to one final game.
Both teams threw absolutely everything they had left at each other. NCI would get an edge. DCU would take it right back from them. But ever so slowly, NCI crept more and more in front, turning a slight lead into a significant one. Seemingly significant enough to finish off DCU once and for all, and finally close out the series. But every time they made the final push, DCU kept shutting them down. DCU would not give them the final inch that they needed to close out the game. And with every last-gasp defence, DCU bought themselves time. Time to scale, time to push back for themselves. Eventually, enough time to make an attempt for the Baron. The objective seemed completely secure, right until NCI captain Charkz flew into the pit and stole the Baron from right under the noses of DCU. True enough, this was exactly the buff needed for NCI, both in-game and psychologically. Their next push for the victory was emboldened, and they finally managed to break open the defence of the Titans’ nexus. A 6-hour long classic saw the NCI Panthers edge out the victory 3-2, in a series that will be remembered for a long time.
For Maynooth, their path to the final was a relatively straightforward affair. Coming into the competition as overwhelming favourites, they effortlessly met the astronomical expectations placed on them from the outset. Clinically dispatching opponent after opponent in the group stage led to an undefeated status heading into the quarter finals. DIT put up as much of a fight as they could against the aptly named “Maynooth Star Destroyer” team, but fell in a 2-0 series. Their next opponents were Ulster University, a surprise package who many did not expect to still be alive in the tournament’s latter stages. Maynooth did not fall afoul of the underdogs, cruising to another 2-0 victory and securing a spot in the grand final. Still yet to drop a single map, this team were poised to take the title – but to do so with a flawless record.
On the other side of the tournament, Trinity found themselves constantly battling for their survival in the bracket. The group stage saw them as one of the weaker teams in Group A on paper, but they showed they could give the top teams a lot to think about. Close losses to Waterford IT and IT Tallaght combined with an upset 2-0 win over DIT secured them 3rd place heading into the knockout stages, and a quarter-final match against a red-hot DCU side. Many had DCU touted as the tournament’s #2 team, with some strong performances in the opening rounds of the competition. However, they seemed unprepared for a Trinity team that loaded in ready to prove the naysayers wrong. One 2-0 victory later, and Trinity were set for a semi-final rematch versus Waterford IT. WIT managed to open up the series with a Game 1 victory, and it appeared as if the Group A winners were destined to book a spot in the Top 2. Trinity managed to completely reverse the momentum of the series in Game 2, taking it to WIT and equalizing the match at 1-1. They ran with this and closed it out in a close final game, taking the series 2-1 and qualifying for the live final against Maynooth.
Unfortunately, due to a complication with the Maynooth roster, the final had to be rescheduled to an offline setting with Trinity automatically being awarded the first game. 0-1 down was not anything the Maynooth team were phased by, as they managed to sail to victory in three consecutive games without missing a beat. It was not the ideal culmination of their success throughout the competition, but it reaffirmed the team’s status as the dominant collegiate side in the country, and booked Maynooth University a spot in the International College Cup qualifier!
Author/Credit – David ‘Whymsy’ Whyms