It comes as quite a shock to think that three years have passed since I was first elected to the role of President of the association. In that time many changes have occurred in the sport of athletics in Ireland none more significant than the formal merging of BLE and the NACAI to form the new national governing body for athletics, The Athletics Association of Ireland (AAI). This development has hopefully brought closure to the unfortunate rift that has existed for many years in the sport in this country. It also highlights the pressing need for the IUAA to formalise its position within the new Irish athletic fraternity.
As my three year term as President comes to a close today this report is written to serve two purposes;
(i) to report briefly on the past 2001 - 2002 season
(ii) to give some personal comments on my three years as President and try based on the sweeping changes taking place put them into context
2001 - 2002 Season
The past year saw a healthy degree of balance return to our team championships. University of Limericks 2001 dominance was curbed to the extent that this year we had the pleasure of welcoming Trinity ladies back to the top of the winners rostrum with their first ever team win in the Indoor Championships and their first Cross Country team title since 1984. DUHAC also picked up the overall cross-country trophy 'The Badger' in Coleraine thanks to a solid performance by their men's team. In Colraine that day the men from Queens also re took possession of the ‘Fox’ after a seven year absence. Trinity's victories proved popular as it is 16 years since DUHAC have had the pleasure of bringing some silverware back to the ‘Pav’. In fact it was 17 years ago that Trinity ladies last won a cross-country/ track & field double. The final team title of the year was decided in Cork IT last April and ensured the addition of a new name to the Multi-Event trophy when UCG broke UL's dominance of the event with a well deserved win.
Over the year our championship hosts again provided the participant colleges with superbly organised events and certainly maintained the high standard of professionalism and organisation that we sometimes, I feel, take for granted. We are indebted each year to the host colleges and their commitment to ensuring that the championships are run efficiently. In particular can I specially mention the three sports officers in CIT, led by Eithne Lydon who last April despite the awful weather organised a top class event. As always we are equally indebted to all those officials and helpers who came out in every type of weather to ensure that our athletes were provided with properly officiated events. On behalf of the executive can I say a big thank you to each and every one.
Last year provided many high points but also presented its fair share of difficult decisions for the executive. The thorny issues of athlete eligibility, guesting in the championships and interpretation of rules arose at different times. Can I reassure you that the members of the IUAA executive worked hard to deal with each of these occurrences in as fair and objective a manner as possible in the circumstances. It was unfortunate that some of these difficult decisions led to the resignation of our PRO during the Track & Field championships in Cork.
We also had an unfortunate incident at the Track & Field meal, when the team trophies were stolen from the University of Limerick tables. The fact that one of the missing trophies has yet to be returned to the trophy cabinet in UL makes one ponder on the wisdom of allowing winning colleges to keep the trophies after the formal presentation. Today in our constitutional review we have an opportunity to spend some time exploring and rectifying some of the anomalies in the constitution and rules of competition that have come to light over the past three years. However we must be endeavour to move beyond our individual college biases and look at how we can work to improve and develop third level athletics in its broadest sense.
The highlight of the year for me came at the Celtic International in Antrim in June when the IUAA men and women’s teams combined to win the overall trophy for only the second time in our history. The athletes who participated in Antrim did so with a passion that proved infectious and in the end got their just rewards for their endeavours. Cora O’Reilly (TCD) and Tony Lilly (CIT) were inspirational captains on the night providing a catalyst for the success that was to follow. The only negative on the night was the absence of any UL students on either team; those selected preferring to travel to Birmingham to compete in an invitational club meet.
1999 - 2002: A three-year journey
The IUAA has over the past three years has continued to develop and is now in my opinion a more stable and progressive organisation. A brief look at the initiatives that have taken place during those three years illustrates the amount of work and time that has gone into improving the infrastructure and processes that make the various championship events run smoothly. The following initiatives undertaken in the last three years illustrate that progression. They form the basis of some of the key developments that have moved us forward to embrace all third level students and to ensure that we are constantly challenging and looking for new and better ways of doing things.
· All third level colleges on the island of Ireland become eligible to affiliate, vote and compete as equals in IUAA championships
· The IUAA executive produce booklets on 'How to organise an Inter-Varsity Athletics Championship'. These are updated annually and made available to host colleges
· The Johnson-Wadsworth Journal's, the IUAA’s new newsletter is successfully launched
· A Web based on line entry system for IUAA championships is successfully launched
· A formal meeting is held with representatives from AAI to clarify the IUAA's position within the new athletics governing body
· A Web based registration system for affiliate colleges is successfully implemented
· The associations web site is revamped and now contains more information and results
There have been many changes within the organisation over the past three years particularly in terms of the number of affiliated colleges and participants in our championships. Numbers have been steadily increasing putting a strain on our resources and finances. This growth of our participant base has always been a priority for me and has I know made it difficult at times for the association to continue functioning effectively. However I continue to believe that the benefits we will achieve by aspiring to represent athletics in all legitimate third level institutions greatly outweighs the perceived difficulties. Can I take this opportunity to thank all of my fellow executive members for their support and help during my time as President and for giving me the opportunity to pursue this vision. Can I also thank you the athletes for the support and enthusiasm you give to the Inter-Varsity championships. It is your unique contribution that continues to makes them the success they are. In athletic terms the Irish Inter-Collegiate championships were preceded, in Ireland, only by the Dublin University Foot Races in 1857 and as you know this year we celebrate the 130th anniversary of the first championships in 1873.
Finally when I reflect it is the athletic highlights both individual and team during my tenure as President that I will remember most. To mention them all would fill many pages. However there are a few that on a personal basis come to mind as particularly memorable.
· Katrinia Campbell's (QUB) unprecedented ninth consecutive ladies javelin title
· UCC men's cross country team equalling the record of five team titles in a row
· UL supreme dominance when winning 10 out of the 11 team titles on offer in 2001
· The ladies from our oldest club, TCD, returning to winning ways in last years Indoor championships
· Eileen O'Keeffe's (AIT) new national senior record of 59.44m in the hammer in 2002
· The performance of the IUAA men's and women's teams in Antrim last June
Looking ahead I hope to remain on the executive in my capacity as Immediate Past President and will endeavour to support my successor in any way I can. I still have a personal vision of what I believe the association should aspire to and would hope to be given an opportunity to explore these ideas further over the coming two to three years. For instance I believe there are opportunities for the association to develop stronger international links. I also have plans for developing a ‘Hall of Fame’ for honouring past greats. All in all I believe there is still much to do. Many thanks for all your help to date.
Eric Brady, Honorary President IUAA 1999 – 2002