Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Full Steam Ahead

The high point of the year, the Irish Championships, is approaching and promises to be a great weekend’s orienteering, with a major contrast between the intricacy of the Maynooth University campus for the Sprint on Friday, to the open mountainside, peat hags, moraines and glacial deposits of the following three days around Turlough Hill and the Wicklow Gap. Before that, though, we’re in high gear for the Leinster Championships, the European Championships and the JK at Easter.

The Leinsters saw a respectable turnout coming to the midlands for CNOC’s event on April 6th, travelling from all four provinces. Carrigmeal forest, spread over several distinct limestone hills near Portlaoise, is a largely runnable deciduous forest with crags and quarries, along the lines of Mullaghmeen in Co. Westmeath. Like Mullaghmeen, the forest has some interesting history: Mullaghmeen is the largest planted beech forest in the country, while the forest at Carrigmeal was planted as part of the Marshall Plan to get Europe back on its feet economically, in the years after the Second World War, according to the farmer whose field we used for parking.

Leinster Champions Colm Moran (3ROC) and Maeve O’Grady (CNOC) weren’t concerned with the history but with the present: Colm finished more than 2 minutes clear of second-placed Corkman-turned-Kerryman Darren Burke, with the Short Brothers, Ruairi and Conor, next. (No sign of Harland, however). On the Women’s course, Welsh visitor Katie Reynolds finished fastest on the day but wasn’t eligible to take the Leinster title.

The early heavy showers passed, affecting only the first starters and the unfortunate officials, but a mild, dry day followed for most of the runners. A JK-style parking field, tea and cakes provided by the Junior Squad, and a convivial assembly area made for a great atmosphere on the day.

The area is presided over by the majestic Rock of Dunamase, first settled in the 9th century, whose image featured on the prizes, but for many the steep and muddy hills of Carrigmeal had provided enough running up and down for the day. Maybe next time …

Results and Routegadget are here.

Up the Walls in Derry
Start of the Derry sprint

The city of Derry, Derry/Londonderry, or Stroke City provided a great weekend’s sport around  St Patrick’s Day. Masterminded by NWOC’s Allan Bogle, the "Legenderry" weekend featured a largely-downhill middle distance race at Binevenagh, under the dramatic cliffs overlooking Lough Foyle on Saturday afternoon, then an Irish victory over France in Rugby that evening, followed by three sprint races on Sunday and a further sprint on Monday.

Binevenagh has been used for Irish Championships and Home Internationals but this event mostly used a south-eastwards extension, avoiding the cliffs but bringing us into some dark coniferous forest where optically-challenged orienteers were advised to bring a torch to read their maps! Darren Burke took first place on the Men's course, with Eoin McCullough second; Niamh O'Boyle won the Women's race with her up and coming younger sister, Caoimhe, second.

The Peace Bridge
Sunday's first sprint race started just outside Derry's walls, with competitors walking across the Foyle on the sinuous Peace Bridge to start close to the Guildhall. Start times were early, to avoid tourists and a food fair in the city, and Philip Baxter's courses brought everyone up and down through the walls and around the hilly city. We should have anticipated some deviousness on the planner's part, but the most talked-about leg was one which brought us from on top of the walls, back outside to a cave-like control and back inside the city again. The walls are the most unique feature of the city and it was inevitable that they would be a major factor in the race. A super event, on Allan Bogle's map, and well worth the journey. Eoin McCullough outsprinted the field to finish 7 seconds ahead of Darren Burke, reversing Saturday's result, with Niamh O'Boyle taking the Women's race from second-placed Ros Hussey.

Post-mortem time
Back across the bridge then to the second sprint, in St Columb's Park and the newly renovated Ebrington Square, a former military barracks (in use since the siege of Derry in 1689) now being swords-into-ploughshared to a public space. More St Patrick's Day festivity here, but the orienteers sprinted around the Park and the Square first. Not the same degree of challenge as the walled city, but a chance to run hard and finish on a running track, while keeping something in reserve for the third sprint of the day, at Coleraine in the afternoon. Darren again finished first with Josh O'Sullivan Hourihan second and Eoin third; winner Niamh again kept Ros and third-placed Olivia Baxter at bay on the Women's course.

How would you do 4-5-6?
The lure of the food fair proved too strong, so back over the bridge again to feast on goat burgers (I kid you not).

Control 4-5-6 ... so near and yet so far!
The 1960's University of Ulster campus, outside Coleraine, was the venue for this last event of the day and of the Campus Sprint series, a fundraiser for the Irish Juniors to help their travel and training plans. Susan Lambe planned and a good turnout of seniors and juniors ran. The area had been used for an Irish Sprint Championships in 2010, so we had an idea what to expect. We didn't revisit the underground control that was used at IOC, but it was a good gallop to finish off the day. Josh had his moment of glory here, finishing ahead of Kevin O'Boyle and Darren; while Kevin's sister Niamh was again the fastest lady, Caoimhe second and Róisín Long third.
You can find all the results from the weekend here.

St Patrick's Day itself saw the final event of the weekend, an ultrasprint style event again in St Columb's Park, featuring a shamrock-shaped specially constructed maze which runners entered at different stages in their courses. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for that and I
Prizewinners at Coleraine
haven't heard any reports except that it was great fun, though quite labour-intensive as the planner, Stephen Gilmore, had to construct the maze himself using a large number of stakes. Darren Burke was the fastest on the Shamrock Sprint, fittingly, as his club, Cork Orienteers, were the initiators of the Shamrock O-Ringen, the three-day event which started on St Patrick's weekend in 1989, later moving to the warmer weather of June.

Curiously, at the other end of the country, another St Patrick's Day event, at the opposite end of the distance scale, was taking place. Bishopstown Orienteers from Cork were running a long distance orienteering course and navigation challenge in the Galtees, to mark their 20th anniversary. The event was based on an idea from Poland, an extreme orienteering event at Gezno, and was promoted by one of their members from Poland. Just up the road at Glengarra, Cork Orienteers were running a Munster League event on Sunday 16th. A busy weekend, all in all.

What's coming up? 
Well, a small group of orienteers are heading this week to the European Championships at Palmela in Portugal, while Trail-O specialists from LVO Wilbert Hollinger, Declan McGrellis and Stephen Gilmore are representing Ireland at the European Trail-O Championships there before returning home via JK2014 in South Wales at Easter.

The JK has topped 3000 runners this year, lured by the hope of reasonable weather with a late Easter, and the complex limestone moorland in the Brecon Beacons National Park which hosts three of the four races. The fourth event, the Sprint on Good Friday, is at Swansea University. Entry has closed but you can follow the fortunes of the runners here.

Two weeks after the JK we have the Irish Championships, this year featuring four races, starting with a sprint (12-15 minute winning time) on a new map of a new area, the University campus at Maynooth, mapped by Jonathan and Laurence Quinn. Start times are from around 6 pm. Planner Laurence has a lot of experience of sprint maps and courses and the event promises to be a cracker.

Saturday's Middle Distance race, run by Setanta, is at Camaderry, just west of Glendalough, and Sunday's Classic distance race just a little further west again, around Lough Firrib (that difficult-to-find little pond on the Lug Walk). Monday's Relays are on the west side of the Wicklow Gap, at Glenreemore. You can get a flavour for some of the terrain of nearby areas on Routegadget: Fair Mountain; Glashaboy Brook. See all the IOC details here.

The formality of an LOC meeting ...
Leinster Lives! Representatives of the Leinster clubs met at the Leinster Championships to bring the dormant Leinster Orienteering Council back to life. Putting together a full fixtures list for the next year was number one on the agenda, with discussion also on the IOA plans for provincial development officers, training schemes for juniors and novice orienteers, and how to attract people to the sport. The 2014-15 League will be a single league rather than two halves; the league events will alternate with local non-league/"come-and-try-it" events, there are plans for a mountain bike O-league, and the two student clubs will each run a League event ... all very positive developments.
Brockagh Spectre: a difficult decision will have to be faced on May 11th, whether to take in the final Leinster League event at Brockagh, near Glendalough, or go to see the Giro d'Italia bike race on its way from Armagh to Dublin. It's due in Dublin at 4 pm so an early start at Brockagh should do it ...

From the archives
20 years ago: in Spring 1994, the list of Irish O-clubs included Athlone RTC Orienteers, Eastern Command Orienteers, Former UCCO, Kevin Street Orienteers, Lee Orienteers, Phoenix Navigators, Southern Orienteers, Thomond Orienteers, UCG Orienteers ...where are they now? ... Ultrasport were selling VJ O-shoes for £33.99 and £39.99 (O-shoes must be proportionately cheaper now?) ... Casio 30-memory stopwatches were all the rage in the times before SportIdent. A new one was soon to go on the market at about £75 ... Munster runners were being encouraged to travel to Galway for the Interprovincial Championships in March, which they had won for the past two years ... Pat Healy was preparing the map and courses for the second Lowe Alpine Mountain Challenge in the Comeraghs in May ... John Lyons (UCDO), Deirdre Ryan (GRTCO) and John Feehan (UCCO) were elected officers of the Irish Orienteering Students Association ... LVO and 3ROC announced a joint two-day event at Slieve Martin and Carlingford, spanning Carlingford Lough, and a Welsh team was expected to travel for the "Celtic Cup" Ireland v Wales challenge. Entries were £6 per day for seniors ... "Walking World" magazine was launched by the publishers of "Irish Runner" ... there would be a Lakeland 5-Day in August 1994, just as there will be in early August this year ... a standard entry form for pre-entry events was being introduced ... GEN ran the Leinster Championships at Glencree in March ... WATO were to run the Munster Championships at Mahon Falls in April and the Irish Championships would be at the Burren on the Cavan/Fermanagh border in May ... 31 people finished at the 3ROC night-O in Dublin's Phoenix Park in February ... Annual membership of clubs cost about £8 for adults ... 3ROC ran "Not the JK" on Easter Monday, but the TIO report misprinted it as "Waster Monday" ... The Irish Orienteer Trophy inter-club competition was still going strong, with WATO, CorkO, BVOC and LeeO battling it out in Munster; LVO taking on FermO and NWOC in the North; 3ROC v GEN v AJAX and SET v FIN v CNOC in Leinster. The National Final would be in September and the winners were expected to represent Ireland at the CompassSport Cup in Scotland in October ... Justin May had just won 4 Trailquest MTBO events out of 4 in the series in the UK ... The Irish Junior Panel consisted of more than 120 orienteers including such household names as M13's Allan Bogle and Ger Butler, W13's Aislinn Austin and Susan Bell, W15 Toni O'Donovan, M15 Shane Lynch, M19 Marcus Pinker and M17 Shane O'Neill (who has just won M35 at the Leinster Champs ... the 3-Day Shamrock O-Ringen moved to Inchigeela in July ...