Friday 29 April 2011

Follow That!

The final countdown to the 2011 Irish Championships is on. Last weekend's JK in Northern Ireland will be a hard act to follow, but Ajax's Irish Championships this weekend will be the biggest IOC for some years, maybe the biggest ever: more than 500 competitors have entered, many of them having stayed on for the week after the JK. The entry from Ireland stands at about 275 with visitors making up the balance.
The Middle Distance and Relay events will feature the open mountain with turf cuttings terrain on the spine of the Dublin/Wicklow border between Glencullen and Glencree, similar to the area mapped by Marcus Pinker at Raven's Rock/Prince William's Seat used for a Leinster Championships some years ago. Competitors at Sunday's Classic event at Brockagh, near Laragh, will have the runnable boulder-strewn slopes of Brockagh and the marshy ground and more complex contours and crags of Mall Hill to contend with.
The visitors are particularly prevalent in the older age classes - imagine 29 M65's in an Irish Champs!. However, the entry of 46 in M21E and 20 in W21E will make sure that there is hot competition at the top end too. Will Nick Simonin retain his title, or will one of the locals like Shea O'Boyle win the men's race? Will Niamh O'Boyle, who has had some injury problems in the past year, retain her title?
In the Relays, will 3ROC take the elusive men's title after finishing top Irish team at the JK? Will CNOC retain the Women's title?
In addition to the main events, Ajax's event centre at Kippure Estate, west of the Sally Gap, will feature a Mini-O event run by Colm Hill as a fundraiser for the Junior Team on Saturday evening and will also host the IOA Annual General Meeting on Sunday evening.
Full details and startlists are here.
Remember that parking at the events is limited, so try to share transport as much as possible.

Marcus Geoghegan said it all, in his brief note about the event in the Irish Orienteering E-Group today:
"The eGroup has been very quiet about this, but that's probably because everyone is still stunned by the amazing achievement of the Northern Irish clubs last weekend in running the JK.
The events were fantastic, challenging, orienteering. The organisation was impeccable. It was a triumph, no other way to describe it. I don't know how they managed to do it, but I for one want to publically say well done. I'm already eagerly anticipating the combined World Champs and Northern Ireland 6-day in a few years' time."

I would have to agree with Marcus's assessment of the event. To attract more than 2000 orienteers to Northern ireland was some feat, many of them never having orienteered here, or even set foot in Ireland before, but to run four such excellent events with such panache and style really was an extraordinary achievement - as if the organisers had been doing it all their lives.
In addition to the fantastic sprint race which kick-started the weekend at Stranmillis College in Belfast, the Individual events on the dunes of Tyrella and the slopes of Slieve Croob, and the relays at Tyrella, continued to impress the competitors with their courses and organisational quality. On top of that, throw in a QUBOC prologue sprint in Queen's University and Belfast's Botanic Gardens, Trail orienteering at Castlewellan and Murlough, TempO at Stranmillis, a micr-O maze and three outstanding string courses for the junior juniors, a table quiz for the Irish juniors, the BOF AGM, and a concert and social in Newcastle, and it made up quite a weekend.
As someone who was involved in a peripheral way in some of the organisation, I could see the amount of planning and thought that went in to every aspect of the event, from terrain selection through bussing competitors, to mapping, to music, to volunteers and equipment, from crisis to crisis, and the degree of cooperation between all the organising clubs (spearheaded by LVO) showed total commitment to the JK as a showcase for orienteering and for Northern Ireland.
There were very many obstacles to be overcome along that way and the organising team was very fortunate to be able to draw on the talents of organisers like Colin Henderson, planners like Bill Simpson, Igor Stefko, Wilbert Hollinger, Greg McCann and Philip Baxter, and many others, all shepherded along by the unflappable Harold White. Several retired orienteers came to see the Festival in full swing or help at the events, and it was great to see the elder statesmen of Irish orienteering like  Ernie Wilson meeting Seán Rothery and Wilbert Hollimger, or Freddie McCann back to help at the Relays.
The competitors' comments were very positive: "A great JK", "One of the best I have been to", "Fantastic orienteering", and no doubt the plaudits will continue to come in.
So: Hats off to NIOA for staging a really outstanding JK! You can read more about it, with results and reviews, on Nope Sport here, on the BOF web site here, and the full results are on the JK2011 web site here.
The JK Trophy was won by Scotland's Interlopers, with the British Army team taking the women's relay title.
Read about the Sprint here, Day 2 at Tyrella here, Day 3 at Slieve Croob here and the Relays here.
Next year's JK will be in Scotland on April 6-9 2012, largely in Perthshire.
There is no truth in the rumour that, since  Jan Kjellstrom Orienteering Festival over the Easter weekend in Belfast and Co. Down was such a success, the name of the event will be changed to the Seán McEllistrim O-festival ...

Some of the Irish highlights of the results were:
Sprint: Rúairí Long 1st M12; Bill Edwards 2nd M40; Caoimhe O'Boyle 2nd W14; Niamh Corbett 4th W16; Faye Pinker 3rd W35; 
Individual: Jonathan Quinn 4th M16A; James Logue 1st M40L, Bill Edwards 2nd M40L; Aonghus OCléirigh 5th M50L; Frank Martindale 4th M75L; Caoimhe O'Boyle 1st W14A; Ruth Lynam 2nd W55L; Clare Nuttall 2nd W70L; Faith White 3rd W75.
Relays: CorkO finished 8th in the Women's Open (Toni O'Donovan, Aislinn Austin,Faye Pinker); LVO  won the Under 40 Junior Relay (Frazer Howe, Eoghan Knight, Paul Pruzina); 3ROC finished 4th in the Mini Relay (Clodagh Moran, Cian May, Aidan McCullough) and 4th in the biggest class, the Mixed Ad Hoc (Mary O'Connell, Cliona McCullough, Eoin McCullough).

Ivan Millar reports:

Irish perform well at home JK

Irish senior orienteers performed well at the JK2011. following 3 hotly contested races 5 senior team members have been selected for WOC in France.
The sprint event on Friday saw a very tough challenge through the buildings of Queens and Stranmillis college. The top 3 Irish Men and Women were:

Nicolas Simonin - 15.03
Seamus O'Boyle - 15.24
David Healy - 15.26

Niamh O'Boyle - 15.09
Toni O'Donovan - 16.03
Ciara Largey - 17.02

Saturday brought the extra challenge of Sunny conditions and the intricate contour detail of Tyrella sand dunes. Top Irish were:

David Healy - 37.36
Marcus Pinker - 40.00
Nicolas Simonin - 41.47

Niamh O'Boyle - 42.06
Toni O'Donovan - 42.50
Ciara Largey - 43.56

Sunday saw some classic Irish mountain orienteering with the festival visiting Slieve Croob. Top 3 Irish were:

Nicolas Simonin - 82.04
David Healy - 86.16
Marcus Pinker - 86.20

Toni O'Donovan - 71.21
Ciara Largey - 73.45
Aislinn Austin - 87.13

There were many other solid performances by the Irish seniors. Overall results were very pleasing and provide evidence of real progress in the build up to the summers major competitions.

JK Snippets:
Did anyone hear or see the cuckoos at Tyrella at the weekend? They were in good voice at the western end of the area for the relays.
Competitors were probably unaware of some last-minute changes to courses at Slieve Croob: on the Wednesday before the event access was lost to part of the area and three courses had to be replanned, controlled, and new sites selected, maps reprinted and bagged and control descriptions prepared in time for Sunday ... this was on top of losing the only patch forest in the whole JK weekend across the road from the Slieve Croob starts because of breeding birds.

Some JK photos:
Stranmillis Sprint Arena

Seán Knight, Leslie Coughlan and Jack Millar go for the line.

The sun shines at Tyrella
Slieve Croob Finish
JK Trophy mass start at the Relays

Dara OCléirigh hands over to Róisín Long (Ajax)

Waiting for changeover

Rúairí Short hands over to Colm Hill (CNOC)

Former World Champion Jorgen Martensson, one of our distinguished visitors.

See more JK photos, taken by Simon Errington, here.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

April 2011

Harold White, Olivia Baxter, Charle Reid and Stephen Gilmore are among the group to launch the JK Sprint race at Stranmillis College, Belfast.
Fermanagh event cancelled
The planned event on the Tuesday after the JK (the day after the Relays) has been cancelled because  Fermanagh Orienteers' involvement in the JK weekend would overstretch the small club too much. However, you can still run on Wednesday and Thursday in the Mournes before heading southwards to the Irish Championships.

JK entries still open
Even though the official closing date for the JK individual events has passed, limited entries are still available up to the limit of printed maps. These late entries will cost £2 per day on top of the normal entry fee - see the Sportident web site for details here.

Support the Irish Junior Squad
If you're going to the JK, there are two opportunities to support the Irish Junior Squad: through going to the Table Quiz on Saturday evening at Stranmillis in Belfast, scene of the Sprint the previous day, or by buying one of the JK hoodies and sweatshirts available on the event website via Sportident. You can sign up for the quiz at the event, but you need to order the tops in advance as they are being made to order. Details here.
The Junior Squad has runners from all parts of the country and promotes technical and fitness training for young orienteers. Squad members will travel to the European Youth O-Champs in the Czech Republic in June, to the Junior World Champs in Poland in July, to the World Championships in France in August and to the Junior Home International in faraway Fermanagh September. The kids (or parents) have to put up most of the money for these trips, so every bit of help from the O-community is really appreciated.

Countdown to IOC2011
Less than four weeks to go to the premier event in the Irish O-Calendar! With the hype surrounding the JK, it may be easy to overlook the Irish Championships a week later, but the combination of the two events has been a bonus for them both. Entries for IOC have topped 400 with two days to go before entries close, but Relay entries have still to pass the 50 mark. Relays can be great fun, so if you've never tried one, get together with your friends or clubmates and give it a lash. The number of relay classes has been reduced to seven, so it's not as complex as it once was and there fill be a good number in each category.
The Middle Distance race on Saturday 30th April at Glendoo Ridge East, on the Dublin/Wicklow border between Glencullen and Glencree, will feature open mountain with old turf cuttings, and the Relay on the Bank Holiday Monday will return to the adjacent Wicklow side of the ridge facing into Glencree. The organisers recomment bringing binoculars as much of the competition area is visible from the changeover area: every control a spectator control!
Sandwiched between the two is the Classic race at Mall Hill/Brockagh, close to Laragh and Glendalough. Previous maps of the area can be seen on Routegadget from the IOC web page here. The ground is more runnable but boulder-strewn in comparison to the other two days, and GEN have kindly provided the map and terrain since the original area was declared out of bounds due to breeding birds.
Full details of the event here.

25 Years Ago
Most of the issues of The Irish Orienteer published between 1982 and 2008 have now been scanned and should shortly be available as pdf documents on the IOA web site, thanks largely to Brian Hollinshead who undertook the scanning. As a taster, here are some snippets from 1986:

The Irish Championships at Slieve Croob on April 26/27 (see JK2011) were won by the AJAX pair of Peter Kernan and Orla Cooke. Brian Corbett was 9 seconds adrift in the men's race. A good run by Marcus Pinker saw him take the M11 title! Curragh won the Men's Relay and GEN the Women's.

The cover of the first issue of the year showed Eileen Loughman running through the bush at the 1985 World Championships in Australia. Roxanne White was the only other Irish representative.
A letter of appreciation from Gareth Murphy in Dublin praised a recent string course he had done: "Dear John I enjoyed doing the string course I liked the animals I liked the bear best". Aonghus ÓCléirigh introduced "Grandslam Orienteering" with a mass start event on a lovely little map of the sand dunes at Portmarnock, sadly now a golf course. The third "Irish Orienteer Trophy" inter-club knockout competition ran in 2006, based on the UK CompassSport Cup. UCD Orienteers (also known as Belfield Orienteers, BO) celebrated their 10th anniversary. They were UCDOC but became UCDO when people used to ask "What's UCDOC?" in their best Bugs Bunny voice.

Preparations were under way for the Continental Cup and the World Military O-Championships, both to be held in Wicklow. At the IOA AGM in Wesley College, Dublin, Connacht Chairman Frank Ryan expressed the view that the sport in the province was in the doldrums (but it still survives today). The International O-Federation was celebrating its 25th birthday. A party of Swedes, led by Peo Bengtsson, visited Ireland in the week after the JK and ran in a series of specially staged events. National Orienteering Day (with introductory events across the country) was on October 5th.

The Moving Crag controversy was revisited by Curragh Orienteers and Niall Rice who had a difference of opinion at a Grade 1 event in Stradbally in May 1983 (the first event where homogenised milk was given to finishers) when a control wasn't in the expected location. This was the cause of considerable controversy in IOA for some time.

Happy times!

Phoenix Park Time Trial is no more
For several years the Irish Junior Squad has been running time trial fitness tests in the Furry Glen in Dublin's Phoenix Park, on a route involving hills, tracks, mud, trees and streams. The Office of Public Works have called a halt, though, because of concerns about environmental damage in the area, though this was hardly caused by a group of orienteers running there a couple of times a year. The March time trials are likely to be the last, but the Park may yet provide an alternative.
You can see the results of the time trials over the years at the Junior Team web site here.

Ivan's Long-O series a success
In a return to old-style orienteering with a 21st century twist, Ivan Millar organised a series of three Long orienteering events using 1:15000 maps to give the Elites and prospective Elites a chance to run longer courses on this scale of map in preparation for races like the Workd Junior Championships and the World Championships where running times in excess of two hours are common.
The events are Gortalougheny, Co. Fermanagh, Carlingford, Co. Louth and Tollymore, Co. Down, attracted good crowds whio certainly got value for money. CNOC's Colm Hill took the top spot on the Men's long course, with Ciara Largey (FermO/QUBOC) took the ladies prize.
Full results and information here.

JK Concert
A first for this year's JK is a concert featuring the groups Bearna and Bethany in the elegant Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle on Easter Sunday evening, feet will be tapping and jivers jumpin' to Lambeg and bodhrán at the JK social.
The music will be preceded by the Routegadget sessions where winners and losers dissect their routes, and the evening will feature other music and entertainment plus the prizegiving for the Trail-O events.
The organisers would prefer people to but a ticket beforehand, though they will be on sale over the weekend too. Tickets are only £7 for adults and £3 for children. Buy tickets online at the Sportident website here. Incidentally, JK entries have reached almost 2100 with a very high percentage running the sprint race as well as the conventional terrain races.
It turns out that it's not "Different Drums" after all!
Closing date reminders
JK relays 7th April

Would anyone care to do a report on the recent Leinster Championships for us?