Phelan Gaming are one of three orgs new to the UK League of Legends European Regional League, which kicks off in 2019.
But what are they about, how did they form and what are their ambitions? Dom Sacco gets to know Phelan Gaming founder and CEO Ciarán “Wings” Walsh in this quick-fire interview.
First off, it would be easy to say that Phelan Gaming are newcomers to the UK and Ireland LoL scene, but that’s not strictly true.
Having taken part in the Forge of Champions tournament earlier this year, they amassed 700 and 600 points during the first two iterations of the competition respectively, and also pushed Misfits Academy (the eventual FoC winners) to a three-game series.
They weren’t too far from breaking into the top eight and qualifying for the latter stages of the tournament.
Now, however, they will be playing in the 2019 UK League of Legends tournament, organised by LVP UK and Riot UK, joining eight other teams including Fnatic.
So, how did Phelan get to this point? First, let’s explore their background and beginnings.
Phelan Gaming was formed in September 2016 with what their founder – Ciarán “Wings” Walsh – describes as one simple goal: “To develop the non-existent esports scene in Ireland.”
“While esports is a global industry, and you can’t help but have an international team of staff, players and support, we wanted to keep it as Irish as we could,” Ciarán says.
“We hope to be competing to be a top 4 team in the league and go from there. Obviously this is easier said then done, but we definitely have the right people behind us to make our goal a reality.”
The name ‘Phelan’ itself comes from the Irish legend of warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
Faoláin, which comes from the Irish for ‘wolf’, is the Gaelic spelling of the word. It can be traced back to a loyal follower of Fionn (some stories say it was a wolf) who would go to the ends of the Earth the rescue the warrior from captivity.
On being an org from Ireland, Ciarán comments: “Living in a country with such a small esports scene was always going to be a challenge for us, but we knew we could do it. Soon after setting up the organisation, smaller communities started to spring up for different games and we were able to find talented players and staff among these groups.
“As time went on, the industry started to expand faster and faster until today, where we have our own dedicated Irish esports leagues.”
It is our honour to be the Irish representative in the #NewLVPuk league in 2019! We would like to thank @LVPuk and @uk_riot for letting our team compete against these awesome teams. We hope to continue the hard work that got us into the league and do Ireland proud.#PhelanIT https://t.co/9sT4tZejT3
— Phelan Gaming (@PhelanGaming) December 12, 2018
Ciarán continues: “In November 2017, we decided that it was time to focus on their own brand; the time had come for us to expand into other scenes. With this revelation, we picked up Nick “Crane” Tuberville to be our team manager.
“Crane was able to build up our database of players that could compete for the team at the highest level.”
Earlier this year, Crane took up the position of team manager at BIG Clan in Germany. But before leaving Phelan, he helped the org bring in a new team manager, Sovonix, who then picked up a League of Legends roster.
This roster went on to compete for Phelan in ESL League of Legends Division 2 and eventually finished second.
Sovonix left for Hyperion in the Forge of Champions, but Phelan retained their head coach and also added a mental skills and performance coach. Ciarán took over as team manager, keeping the same bot-lane players but changing the top side of the map.
“Living in a country with such a small esports scene was always going to be a challenge for us, but we knew we could do it.”
“After a positive start to the competition, with our squad beating Hyperion and taking a game off Misfits Academy, life was great for everyone at Phelan,” Ciarán explains.
“But this would eventually come to an end. We fell to Hyperion in the next Forge of Champions and started our search for a team manager to take over from me.
“We brought in some of the UK’s best managers to take over but sadly it still wasn’t enough. We lost to Misfits Academy in the next round of Forge of Champions meaning our tournament run was over.”
Ciarán said this was devasting for the staff and the players, who knew they could have done better in the qualifying tournament and in the scoring tournament.
But the dream wasn’t over yet.
“A week after we were knocked out of Forge of Champions, we started building up our plans for the next LVP venture and of putting ourselves in the strongest position to get into the next tournament,” Ciarán says.
“We have since re-signed Sovonix and EllGriff from Hyperion to be our team manager and his assistant respectively.”
So what are Phelan’s aims and ambitions for the future?
“We hope to be competing to be a top 4 team in the league and go from there,” Ciarán answers.
“Obviously this is easier said then done, but we definitely have the right people behind us to make our goal a reality.
“We are currently going through the process of picking up the best roster, and expanding on our staff team to fit.”
Time will tell how Phelan fare in their first upper-tier UK League of Legends competition, but they’ve shown they have the fight, the persistance and that warrior’s spirit, like the Irish legend Fionn himself.
Good luck to the lads and we look forward to seeing their roster line-up and how they do in the 2019 UK league season.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League of Legends and World of Warcraft player, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association and runs ENUK in his spare time.