Sunday, 17 May 2009

May News

IOC 2009
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.

It is interesting that the top-three clubs won 55% of the golds and 45% of all medals; I think this means that big clubs win disproportionately more medals, possibly because they find it easier to fill relay teams.

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!

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 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 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 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 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 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 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