Honorary Presidentís Report: 1999 Ė 2000

 

The past university year has been a very special one for Irish Universities Athletics. The 1999/2000 season was the first in the 128 year history of Irish Inter-varsity Athletics in which all third level colleges on the island were eligible to compete as equals in the IUAA championships. This is something that both my IUAA executive colleagues and I have been working towards for some time now and it was particularly pleasing to see such a large number of college teams take up the challenge at the first championships, the Road Relays, in Maynooth last November. Of course it also presented a unique challenge to the first year of my presidency of the association as we now have over double the number of college clubs affiliated as full voting members.

The reports from the other executive officers will Iím sure give a full and comprehensive review of the past years activities both good and bad so I donít propose, other that to mention a few significant highlights, to spend too much time looking back. I feel this presidentís report; the first of the new millennium will serve the association much better by looking ahead to the future.

Highlights

From a team perspective, and remembering that the various championships are first and foremost team competitions, I feel that the most significant achievement of the year had to be UCC menís victory in the cross country championships. Their win completed a very rare five cross country team titles in a row and equaled the feats of the great UCG menís teams of the early seventies and of course UCDís menís five in a row from the late eighties/ early nineties. The Cork men can now go forward and try to go one better and make it a unique six in 2001. Equally important last year was the emergence of the UL distance teams, particularly in the ladies section. Their victory in the Road relays, their first ever, was emphatic and hopefully heralds the emergence of a new challenger to the here to fore dominant colleges in this event. Competition spurs us all on to greater things and new names for the championship trophies can only be a sign of progress. My final highlight from the 1999 Ė 2000 season relates to an individual who has totally dominated her event for as long as most current university athletes can remember. Katriona Campbellís 8th consecutive win in the womenís javelin this year places her head and shoulders above all her predecessors both male and female but more importantly highlights her long term support of the inter-varsity athletics championships. She too may return for an unprecedented 9th title in 2001.

The Path Ahead

An Olympic year always generates a high degree of interest in Track & Field athletics; Sydney 2000 was no exception. The fact that over a third of the 30 athletes representing Ireland at the games, at one stage in their careers, competed in the IUAA championships gives an indication of the emerging importance of athletics in the third level sector. As an association we must look to encourage and develop that talent while at the same time continue to provide an outlet for the large number of students interested in the sport of athletics. This presents us with many challenges both in terms of monetary and people resources.

We have now developed to a stage where we have a very inclusive and broad ranging programme of events for athletes both at a national and international level. We have eleven team championships each year and numerous individual events. We also endeavor to fulfil an annual World Student Games commitment (track & field and cross country on alternate years), participate in an annual track and field international in Antrim and organise a bi-annual Celtic International cross country event. As we move forward we can also expect competitor numbers in our championship to increase. If these are to continue to grow we will need to source new funding and administration support. The current system based on the old inter-varsity approach coupled with IUAA executive support may no longer be enough. I feel that we need to seriously explore the possibility of getting a suitable sponsor for the association. This would have the effect of supplementing our funds and might also increase our media exposure. The advent of TV coverage (TG4) however limited, for the track & field last year in Limerick was a significant step froward and would offer an attractive carrot for a would be sponsor. We might also want to consider how we might avail of Sports Council funding and /or funding or support that might become available through the Athletics Association of Ireland.

Finally and I feel most importantly we must look to ensuring that we have an appropriate mechanism in place that will allow us to run our events in a professional and safe manner. Our three main championships last year (Indoors, XC and T&F) highlighted a number of difficulties that need to be addressed as soon as possible. At the indoor championships the whole area of insurance and safety rose its ugly head for the first time. Without going into the details it suffices to say that we need to ensure that we quickly educate ourselves and out member clubs of the potential minefields in this area and remind each other of the requirements of each of the hosts athletic clubs in this regard. Facilities and communication between and within clubs were both highlighted as areas that could be improved at the other championships. We also learned that providing numerous untrained helpers at a championship is not in itself a guarantee of a successful execution of the championships. We need to as much as possible source qualified officials or if necessary train people specifically for the roles they will be required to fill at championships. The executive in this regard have agreed to put together a booklet on how to run an inter-varsity championship and to include in it all of the more important learning points form the championships of the past few years. This is obviously a start but will not necessarily provide an adequate solution to the difficulties in the short term.

Conclusion

So after a year of my presidency I feel we have started on a developmental journey that will continue long into the future. We have identified many positive elements to our association and championships but have also shown an ability to look inwardly at ourselves and reflect on what we need to change, develop and improve. This in itself ensures that the association will thrive in the coming decade and emerge as a potent ground for future development in Irish athletics as a whole. We are fast approaching our 130th anniversary. We must strive to ensure that we continue the good work started by that small group of individuals who in Queens College Cork in 1873 had the foresight to put in place the worlds first ever full inter-varsity championship competition.

Eric M. Brady Hon. President IUAA