Friday, 1 May 2009

Tomorrow's News Today

Chairman’s Report to the 2009 Irish Orienteering Association Annual General Meeting, Tawnawully, Co. Donegal, May 3rd, 2009

Sometimes in Orienteering we do ourselves a disservice by talking about declining numbers, ageing profiles, land-access issues and difficulties in attracting young people to the sport. These are all real issues, but we need to temper this by also thinking of the many positive things that are happening in Irish Orienteering today. The calendar is so full that it is hard to find a free date; junior training sessions are overflowing; hundreds of young people are taking part in Schools orienteering; more than 40 mapping projects are underway; outdoor education centres want to do Orienteering training; the junior squad are producing excellent performances against world's best; over 80 orienteers have attended various Orienteering courses and seminars this year; and more people are actively involved in the administration and development of the sport, both on and off the IOA committee, than have been for many years.

For me the highlight of this year, the 40th anniversary of Orienteering in Ireland, is the fantastic work being done with the Junior Orienteering Squad. Please join me in thanking all of the people who work with the juniors – without you we would not have such a successful and vibrant group of enthusiastic youngsters. I strongly encourage every Irish Orienteer to help our junior squad whenever you find an opportunity, and congratulations to the squad members themselves on their excellent achievements in competition during 2008/2009.

Irish Orienteering is very grateful to the Irish Sports Council for the financial support that we receive from lottery funds. It is often a perception within orienteering that this is a pot of money that can be used in whatever way we like, but this is not true. Sports Council funding is ring-fenced such that it must be spent in specific areas, by far the largest of which is coaching. Ed Niland has developed an excellent coaching structure for Irish Orienteering; implementing this structure is not a one-man job - it is now up to all of us as individuals and clubs to make sure that it is a success.

Military Orienteering continues to thrive and I would like to welcome Captain Oliver Clear who is replacing Commandant Pat Farrelly as the Defence Forces' Orienteering official representative. I would also like to thank Pat for arranging a number of places for Irish Orienteers on British Army Orienteering Club training courses.

Irish Orienteering is very grateful to Martin Flynn for his ongoing work on orienteering.ie and for the continuing development of the event management software, Orienteering Ór. Stuart Scott's IOLeague has become the standard automated management system for a number of leagues including Munster, Leinster and Dublin-by-Night. John McCullough's "The Irish Orienteer" blogsite has been a great success with lots of interesting and informative articles. However it cannot survive without articles from orienteers and everyone is encouraged to contribute in some way during the coming year.

While the numbers attending schools events are very encouraging, at last year's AGM I highlighted weaknesses in our Schools' Orienteering structures and I am delighted that Andrew Cox with assistance from others has made great progress in this important area.

The “Computers in Orienteering” seminar in December 2008 was a great success and needs to be repeated in 2009; see https://theirishorienteer.blogspot.com for a full report. A controller’s course, two OCAD courses and a coaching course have been run this year.

We are grateful to Fachtna Healy (CorkO) and Brian Power (Setanta) for their efficient management of the shared SportIdent kits. Electronic timing is now the norm at nearly every Orienteering event and this has put a lot of pressure on these shared kits - we need to create a plan for how this can be restructured to streamline the process for the 2009/2010 season. A number of clubs are building their own club kits and one club has purchased an entire kit with the aid of a 2008 Sports Capital Grant from the Department of Sports.

In February 2009 the FIOA (Federation of Irish Orienteering Associations) was revived - the minutes of the meeting are available on orienteering.ie and the IOA looks forward to strengthening its relationship with the Northern Irish Orienteering Association (NIOA). In 2011 the largest orienteering event ever to be staged on this island, the JK, will be staged by the NIOA I am sure that they would be grateful for any help that an individual or club has to offer.

Since 2006 we have run social events in Inishbofin Island, Kilcrohane and Castletownbere and we are continuing this tradition at the 2009 AGM. As well as being informative these sessions are an attempt to increase the social aspects of our sport. CorkO are also running similar sessions during this year's 20th anniversary Shamrock O-Ringen in West-Cork/Kerry. Their entry list is full of high-class international orienteers and it is a great credit to CorkO that they have firmly established the Shamrock O-Ringen on the international calendar.

I would like to thank the many Orienteers who quietly make a huge contribution to the administration and development of the sport, both on and off the IOA Executive committee. A number of clubs have had no representative on the IOA committee for many years; maybe this will change this year? There is a misapprehension that committee membership involves travelling long distances to regular meetings, but this is not the case. A small number of conference call meetings are held each year and most decisions are taken by email exchanges. The minutes of all IOA meetings are published on orienteering.ie. In January 2008 the IOA appointed a part-time paid assistant, Aine Joyce of GEN, to help with the administrative work of the voluntary IOA committee, especially Juniors and Treasurer. This system is working extremely well and all of the IOA committee are delighted with Aine's pleasant, efficient and reliable manner; we would be lost without her majestic organisational talents.

After seven years of service, Brendan O'Brien of KerryO (previously Ajax) is stepping down as Director of High Performance Orienteering. Please join me in thanking Brendan for the excellent work that he has done over the years in managing and developing the Elite squad.

Harold White has re-established the technical sub-committee and the rules of orienteering are being updated.

A highlight of the year was the completion of Brian Hollinshead's (3ROC) project to arrange the donation of 1,060 maps to the Trinity College Map Library; see https://theirishorienteer.blogspot.com for a full report.

We are grateful to Bernard Creedon and Barbara Foley-Fisher who continue their work as the IOA's Medical Officer and Child Protection Officer. Clubs are reminded that it is their own responsibility to implement the IOA's Child Protection, Anti-Discrimination, Schools', Land Access and Anti-Doping policies, all of which are published on orienteering.ie. In addition Barbara is doing a lot of work on Garda vetting procedures and I encourage all clubs to help and support her with this vital process; you will be hearing more from her soon.

The IOA Development Officer has made great strides in the development of permanent Orienteering courses. Clubs are encouraged to develop close ties with local landowners, Coillte and the OPW. A confrontational attitude with landowners will not help our cause - an excellent example of how to work positively with Coillte and other semi-state agencies is the work that is being done by Philip Brennan of Setanta as the IOA’s representative to the Dublin Mountains Partnership, and by David Dare of Setanta who represents the IOA to the Irish Forest Certification Initiative. Leave No Trace is a very active in Ireland, but we have no representative to it.

I would like to remind Orienteers not to claim, either explicitly or implicitly, that they represent Irish Orienteering when they are dealing with any other organisation. You are free to make your representations as an individual or as a representative of your club, but if you want to lobby on behalf of Irish Orienteering please join the committee or ask to be nominated as an official representative by the committee.

LeeO have disbanded and donated €2,000 for new elite trophies and a junior trophy. Some work has been done in this area but unfortunately not in time for IOC 2009. In order to progress this, someone, or a small group, needs to step forward and make this happen. Our elite trophies are worn and ageing - they do not properly reflect the dedication, skill and training that it takes to become a champion.

In light of the legislative framework that governs sporting bodies, insurance requirements, and our child-protection responsibilities, the club affiliation and event registration procedures have been tightened and a constitutional amendment to incorporate Just Sport Ireland has been proposed to the 2009 AGM.

I would like to thank WEGO for 2009 Irish Championships and for facilitating the 2009 IOA AGM.

Next year I believe the whole Irish Orienteering community needs to focus on: involving more people in the development of the junior squad; regularising the position of schools' orienteering within the IOA; finding positive ways to work with Coillte and other landowning bodies; better meeting our child protection responsibilities; creating more inter-club rivalry; and enhancing the social, not just the competitive, aspect of our sport.

The IOA constitution does not permit the same person to spend more than three years as chairman, a wise provision as it gives others the opportunity to step forward and implement their ideas. I have completed three terms as chairman, double-jobbing as mapping officer, and I am now stepping down from both positions and from the committee. I would like to thank all of those that I have worked with on the committee over the last eight years for their enthusiasm, hard work and their endless patience when I bombard them with emails. It is a genuine pleasure to be a part of such an enthusiastic team.

Marcus Geoghegan, Outgoing IOA Chairman, May 3rd, 2009

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