A challenging weekend of orienteering faced the competitors at this year's Irish Championships in Co. Donegal on the May Bank Holiday weekend. Joint organisers Western eagles and CNOC produced maps of three overlapping areas beside Lough Eske, near Donegal Town. Described in advance as being like Inishbofin but with more hills, the runners knew what kind of thing was in store, but the reality was somewhat different. Perhaps it was the recent weather, but the areas were very wet, slippy and tussocky underfoot, slowing the runners and increasing the physical challenge.
The Saturday evening middle distance race at Benson's Hill, planned by Pat Healy, saw Marcus Pinker (CorkO) winning the Elite course by two minutes from Bishopstown's Nick Simonin, with Cork O's Darren Burke third, while Niamh O'Boyle (CNOC) had almost a minute to spare over second placed Ciara Largey (Fermanagh) in the Women's Elite, followed by DFO's Maeve O'Grady. Marcus, of course, grew up on terrain like this in west Cork, and eats this kind of stuff for breakfast. (However, see below!). See all the middle distance results here.
Sunday's Classic race, planned by Frank Ryan, at Tawnawully shared the start and finish with the previous evening's race but the courses largely diverged from the middle distance courses. Heavy showers made the going tougher but Marcus Pinker again came to the fore, finishing eleven minutes clear of upcoming Colm Hill (CNOC) with Waterford's Neil Dobbs third; in the Women's Elite, Ciara Largey turned the tables on Niamh O'Boyle with a margin of 3 minutes, followed again by Maeve O'Grady. Táiniste Mary Coughlan came to present the prizes. See the results here.
Overnight rain and mist made the 2.5 km walk to the relay changeover area something of an epic: the location on the hilltop at Croaghmeenare chosen by planner Paraic Higgins must be picturesque, but on the day that was in it there was little to be seen and the runners retreated to the warmth and food at the Tawnawully community centre rather than wait in the gale in the very welcome army tent. Cork O took the Premier class (Darren Burke, Shane Lynch, Marcus Pinker) with 6 minutes to spare over CNOC (Ruairí Short, Shea O'Boyle, Colm Hill) with Ajax (Niall Ewen, Aonghus OCléirigh, Colm Rothery) third. In the Women's race only two teams finished, with CNOC (Bridget Lawlor, Maeve, Ruth) ahead of Lagan Valley (Andrea Stefkova, Susan Bell, Katarina Stefkova). There were many non-finishers and incomplete teams. See the relay results here.
The weekend also featured the IOA Annual General Meeting, a table quiz to raise money for the Junior Squad and sessions with the Elite winners routes. Among other nuggets of information were the dietary habits of the winners: cereal, toast and yoghurt seem to feature in the pre-race preparation of both Marcus and Ciara.
It's always a risk running orienteering in open upland areas, particularly in our climate, and we got away with perhaps two days out of three. Overall the weekend was a very challenging one both for the competitors and the organisers. That a small group of volunteers living several hours away from a remote mountain area like this can map, plan and organise three days of orienteering at Championship level is a remarkable feat and a testament once again to the dedication of the people involved.
Some routes can be seen on Routegadget here.
Next year's Irish Championships will be in Northern Ireland, in a break from the usual sequence in order to accommodate the Jan Kjellstrom Orienteering Festival to be run by NIOA in 2011. Visit the JK2011 web site here.
IOA Chairman Crisis Averted
A crisis arose at the IOA Annual General Meeting in Co. Donegal on May 3rd when no Chairman could be found for the Association. Outgoing Chairman, Marcus Geoghegan, was obliged to stand down after three years in the job and the meeting adjourned without finding a replacement.
Since then, Brendan O'Brien has stepped forward to take on the role. Brendan, now of Kerry Orienteers, has been Director of High Performance on the IOA for the past seven years and stood down from the Executive Committee at the AGM. His holiday from IOA was short-lived, however.
The Chairman is an essential position, particularly when it comes to dealing with Government departments or official bodies like the Sports Council.
Berndan is the moving force behind the inaugural Irish Sprint-O Championships to be held at Ross Island, Killarney, on the eve of the Shamrock O-Ringen, on Friday May 29th. See details here.
IOC2009 Medals Table
Marcus Geoghegan writes "I was chatting to someone at the Irish Orienteering Championships prizegiving in Tawnawully who bemoaned the lack of medals that his club was receiving, so I simply couldn't resist putting the results into a spreadsheet to create an IOC2009 medals table.
A quick web search told me that the normal Olympic system ranks by number of golds, then silvers, then bronzes.
Using this rank-by-gold system CorkO ties with Lagan Valley, but loses out because Lagan Valley has a lot more silvers, so strength in depth won it for them. In fact in each category (gold, silver and bronze) Lagan Valley won the most medals.
Curragh-Naas are third, but if any one of Curragh-Naas's eight silvers had been a gold they would have moved up to second place overall, so a few seconds in any of several classes made all the difference. A number of competitors were entered as CNOC/DFO or DFO/CNOC; in each case I deleted the second club and assumed that the competitor represented the first - “count me twice” is definitely not allowed. I'm sure Curragh-Naas could scramble further up the table by redeploying their schizophrenic members (at the expense of the defence forces), but he is just going by the club names in the published results.
There are two other possible systems: one ranks by total number of medals won and the other assigns points to medals. Both have problems – rank-by-medals means a gold has the same value as a bronze, and rank-by-points means N bronzes are equal to one gold, both of which go against the spirit of a championship event. You go there to win, not to nearly win, and I say that with genuine respect for all of those proud orienteering chests that are displaying an IOC2009 silver or bronze medal this week. However it has to be said that the rank-by-gold system used here does have a theoretical anomaly: what if club A wins only one gold and club B wins ten silvers but no golds; which club is better?
Whichever way you choose to look at it, Lagan Valley dominated the 2009 Irish Orienteering Championships. They took home about one of every five medals awarded, as well as one of every five golds. Only one third of their fifteen silvers was lost to clubmates, so they had great potential to win a lot more golds.
Great Eastern Navigators are our best alchemists – they converted 62% of their 16 medals into gold, but Setanta seems to have lost the Midas touch with a conversion rate of only 8% from their 13 medals. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride...
The press didn't pick up on it, but Leinster actually beat Munster twice last weekend, once in Rugby and again in Orienteering. The inter-provincial gold share-out is: Leinster 41; Munster: 20; Northern Ireland 17; Connaught 1. However each of the top-three clubs in the medals table is from a different province which must mean that there is great potential to revive some sort of inter-provincial or all-Island inter-club competition. In total 20 different clubs brought home some silverware.
Medals from middle distance, classic distance and relay are all included and I have counted a relay team as one medal, not three - that’s the normal Olympic way of doing it. This table is based on medals, not places, as the eligibility rules preclude some class winners from receiving IOC medals. I'm sure that my spreadsheet and analysis is full of errors and apologies in advance for that.
Maybe we should have an IOC medals table each year? I can’t recall if this has ever been done before, but I certainly haven’t seen one in recent years. In an Irish Orienteering Championships we probably give out more medals than at an average Olympic games, so we must have enough data to build year-on-year comparisons. The data is up there on the web for the last few years so if anyone wants my spreadsheet (it's a pivot table) they are welcome to try and time-line the data across a few years.
Well done Lagan Valley.
(The actual medals table wouldn't import into the blog but it will be on the IOA web site soon - Ed.)
Summer Series Events Start
If you have some free evenings, why not do some midweek orienteering? There are several series of evening events on in the early summer: CNOC have a series of five events on Tuesdays in Kildare and Wicklow, finishing in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow with a barbecue on June 16th; Cork O have an Inter Firm League of 13 events on Tuesdays finishing on 28th July; Bishopstown have a Business Houses league on Thursdays with the last event on 28th May. Lagan Valley also have a series of Thursday evening events, finishing on May 28th. Details of venues and times on the IOA web site here.
Shamrock Entries Close
Entries for the 10th Shamrock O-Ringen have just closed. The event, based in Killarney over the June bank-holiday weekend, bring us back to three areas: the Black Lakes, Crohane Mountain and Muckross, giving a variety of terrains from craggy, boggy open mountain to fast forest and parkland. Once again, entries from abroad are good but Irish entries look a bit disappointing, a feature of the event I have commented on since its earliest days. Information on the Shamrock O-Ringen is here.
Tell us about it
If you're going orienteering over the summer, do write about it for The Irish Orienteer!