Thursday, 16 May 2013

IOA AGM - Oughterard

 Cllr. Thomas Welby, Mayor of Galway, Mary O'Connell & Frank Ryan
Annual General Meetings are rarely the most exciting events and this year's IOA AGM was no exception. The AGM is an important point in the year of the Association, where the Executive Committee are called to account for their stewardship of the sport over the past year and where policies are laid down for the year to come, office holders elected and awards distributed. This year's AGM, on the Sunday evening of the irish Championships, was squeezed in after a good meal and a long prizegiving, and was a rather rushed affair, starting just before 9 pm at The Boat Inn in Oughterard. This was hardly the optimal arrangement for the serious business of an AGM, with people wanting to socialise or go home, nevertheless the business of the meeting was transacted smoothly.

Chairman Mary O'Connell welcomed everyone and ran through the activities of the past year - her full report and those of many of the other officers - are on the IOA web site here. Did you know, for example, that there were 144 registered IOA events in 2012 with 14300 starts and 2500 competitors? Mary highlighted the work in developing orienteering in schools and scout groups and the availability of the 17 permanent courses around the country. Orienteering is on the primary school curriculum and this provides further opportunities for development. She thanked the Executive Committee, the Child Protection Officer Barbara Foley-Fisher, and particularly thanked Brendan O'Brien for his work on IOA, as Chairman and as Elite officer. She also thanked, among others, Juniors Officers Ruth Lynam (outgoing) and Mike Long (current) for their work.
Treasurer Sarah Ní Ruairc presented the audited accounts for 2012, reporting a deficit of more than €11000, much of which was spent on the "Ten Elements of Orienteering" videos which Finn van Gelderen showed at a later stage in the meeting. Income in 2012 was €67000 of which €47000 came from the Government grant. IOA spent €15000 on high performance orienteering and €12000 on Juniors in 2012 (all figures rounded up/down). Our grant in 2013 is expected to be less than in 2012.
Juniors officer Mike Long reported on four junior training weekends during the year, plus teams running in Junior Home Internationals, European Youth Champs and Junior World Champs as well as a junior tour to the Welsh 6-Day last August. He was encouraged by the fact that 9 of the 24 on the JHI team were first-timers: a good omen for the future. This year's EYOC will be in Portugal and JWOC in the Czech Republic. One issue which was raised by several of the officers was the new requirements for Garda vetting of anyone dealing with juniors or vulnerable adults, and Mike has circulated vetting forms to be completed and returned to Barbara Foley-Fisher.
Communications officer Finn van Gelderen showed several of his "Ten Elements" videos and outlined some of his other corporate identity projects like car stickers and new kit for the World Championships team, and mentioned that the next CompassSport magazine will have an article on orienteering in Ireland. He also revealed that the new style IOA web site is here to stay (which is fine as long as the old one co-exists with it, as far as I'm concerned: thanks to those of you who agreed with me and are keen to keep the old format).
Development Officer Andrew Cox reported on schools orienteering (24 IOA-sanctioned schools events in 2012) and emphasised that for schools (particularly Primary schools) the maps must be close by. There will be a Schools orienteering meeting on June 9th at Kilcoran Lodge Hotel near Cahir, Co.Tipperary and all interested people are invited.
Ed Niland reported on orienteering education and Harold White on technical matters: new mapping registration rules and new event registration regulations are being introduced, to be followed by the general rules, protests and colour events. Consultation is still possible on the event registration issue but the die has been cast in relation to the mapping register.
Mapping Officer Brian Power mentioned that there are over 700 known orienteering maps in the country and asked clubs to try to resolve any disputes about mapping rights amicably. It was suggested that a previous mapping officer has a copy of the long-lost IOA mapping register and it would seem to make sense to use this as a starting point in relation to map registration rather than having to start from scratch.
Fixtures Secretary Fergal Buckley told the meeting about the new event registration scheme where the season will run from 1st August to 31 July and that June will be the month for event registrations. The proposals for event registration are on the IOA web site.

Other officers' reports were circulated (Darren Burke's on High Performance and Bernard Creedon's on anti-doping policy spring to mind) and these will be on the IOA web site for you to read in detail.

The elections which followed were uncontentious, with most of the officers prepared to go forward for another year. There are vacancies for Mapping Officer, however, and for Secretary.

Following the elections, the presentation of awards to those chosen by IOA took place: the Mactire Trophy to Conor Short for his performance in JWOC 2012; the Silva Trophy to Frank Ryan for years of dedicated service to orienteering in Connacht and nationwide; thew Silva Award to Pat O'Connor for similar work in Munster and particularly for involving scouts in orienteering; and the "Spirit of Orienteering" award to Ruth Lynam.

Two special awards were presented for the orienteers who ran in the most events in 2012, and they went to Paul Smyth (AJAX) with more than 41, and the ladies went to Eadaoin McCavana (GEN).

The only impassioned plea of the night came with Josh O'Sullivan-Hourihan's request to use the correct overprinting colours for courses so that colour-blind orienteers like himself can see the course on the map. Evidently one needs to tweak the OCAD colour palette so the overprint colour settings are 100 magenta and 30 cyan, because the OCAD colour called "purple" is actually red.

The meeting adjourned at 10.20 pm.

So: a businesslike but uncontroversial AGM. I have been at AGM's in small halls after Connacht, Championships, at Irish Championships, in schools in Dublin and in even EGM's in forest car parks, and there is no ideal time or place, but I would have to say that trying to squeeze a meal, two prizegivings and an AGM into one evening is not a recipe for success.

On a personal note, I would have to thank the entire IOA for their work in keeping the sport going from year to year. Orienteering is a minority sport among minority sports, with an aging and possibly dwindling population, and we will struggle to survive and to regain the critical mass we need to survive through natural wastage, but it's such a fantastic sport that we have to keep chipping away at it.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Irish Championships Report

Classic winner Marcus Pinker (CorkO) - 
Another fine Championships run by a handful of dedicated Connacht orienteers saw Marcus Pinker (CorkO) stamp his authority in the Classic race on complex open moorland, with Niamh O'Boyle (CNOC) retaking the W21E title. A dead heat for 2nd in the Classic between Conor Short (CNOC) and Neil Dobbs (WATO) provided drama, while in the Relay Cork Orienteers took their 7th Women's Relay gold, relegating the CNOC ladies team into 3rd place while the CNOC Men's team regained the trophy for the 11th time (if you count their earlier incarnation of "Curragh Orienteers").
In the Middle distance race former champion Una May (3ROC), having run a 5 km race that morning, claimed the W21Elite title with Conor Short taking the M21E.
These are the facts, but they don't take into account the amount of work it needs to set up and run a national championships, from the selection of areas, getting landowners' permission, mapping, planning, controlling and organising. The core of the organising team from Western eagles is only half a dozen or so, and the inclusion of the likes of Pat Healy as mapper (with Padraig Higgins) and general dogsbody swelled the numbers to perhaps ten. How many other, larger, clubs could unaided provide three days of excellent orienteering in remote areas? As a recognition of Frank Ryan's contribution to orienteering over many years, he was presented with the Silva Award by IOA Chairman Mary O'Connell at the Relay prizegiving on Monday.
The terrain was largely boulder-strewn open mountain with some tricky young forest but the difference between this terrain and, say, west Cork, is that it was more runnable,less hilly and more technical. The Leinster equivalent would be either much steeper or covered in high heather, or both; the Munster version might be bedevilled by large tussocks of grass and uncrossable marshes.
Organisationally, having to bus the runners in and out from Glengowla Mines near Oughterard, was a necessary evil given the absence of parking in the competition area. The ride to and from the assembly area was an interesting one (interesting in the sense of the closing minutes of the original "Italian Job" movie where the bus teetered on the edge of a precipice with the gold sliding perilously close to the open door ...). However, in this case the gold went to the deserving winners.
Excitement was never far away in the relays on Monday, either: despite a small entry in some classes, the races were hotly contested, with only seconds separating the teams in Handicap 6 class (Setanta edging out 3ROC and Cork) and Handicap 12 (Ajax edging out Fingal). In the Women's Premier, CorkO (Sharon Lucey, Ailbhe Creedon and Niamh Corbett) gained 5 minutes on LVO on the final leg, putting them a minute in front at the line and taking their first Women's title since 2008. CNOC (Conor Short, Kevin O'Boyle and Ruairi Short) in the Open class had a more comfortable 14-minute win over last year's winners, CorkO.
The drama reached its height, however, in the final moments of the Junior 48-  race, with 3ROC M12 Aidan McCullough outsprinting Ajax anchor-man Oisin Wickham only to be obstructed on the line by a race official, so a dead heat was declared.
Weatherwise, while the rest of the country basked in spring sunshine, the cloud, rain and wind visited the orienteers, particularly during Saturday's Middle Distance race. The organisers had thoughtfully provided tents to shelter the waiting runners, mindful of the conditions that prevailed in Donegal during the last Connacht-run IOC in 2009, but we can't blame the organisers for the weather.
In a busy weekend, there was a fund-raising table quiz on Saturday evening and the IOA AGM was squeezed into Sunday evening after the prizegiving (there'll be a separate report on the AGM soon).
No TIO report on an IOC would be complete without a bit of cuckoo-spotting and, yes, there was one in the early morning where I stayed, but not in the competition area.
Pat Healy and Val Jones took photographs of the events and the results breakdown and Routegadget are all on the IOA web site here. Philip Baxter also took photographs: see the middle distance here, classic here and relay here.
This is a rather brief report which may evolve over the coming days, so keep watching this space!

Shamrock O-Ringen Entries Close on May 10th
A reminder to enter the Shamrock O-Ringen in Kerry on June 1-2-3 before Friday 10th May. See the event web site at

Thursday, 2 May 2013

May 2013/1

Irish Championships
The rotation of the Irish Championships between the four provinces brings this year's IOC back to Connacht, with three new adjoining areas south of Oughterard in Co. Galway. Pat Healy's new maps, using LIDAR data, capture the detail of the terrain which is described as complex but runnable, undulating open with some young forest. It is reportedly more runnable than the areas used for last year's Irish 3-Day in the same general area.
Marcus Pinker will try to retain his Irish Classic title, missing the British Championships which are on the same weekend to run in Galway, but Darren Burke, last year's Middle Distance Champion, is also running well. Shane Lynch, winner of the recent sprint selection race for the 2013 World Championships, and experienced on open mountain terrain, could have a strong run, and Neil Dobbs has come home for the Championships, so it's hard to call.
Maeve O'Grady, winner of the Classic race last year, won't be defending her title. Ros Hussey, 2012 Middle Distance Champion, will be in the mix, with sprint specialist Susan Lambe, junior Niamh Corbett and previous winners Niamh O'Boyle and Ruth Lynam.
The Irish Championships are qualification races for all the International teams so interest will be high among all the elites.
Saturday will see the Middle distance race, with later afternoon starts; on Sunday it's the Classic long distance race and on Monday the Relay.
Follow the action on the IOC web site here.

Leinster Championships
Fingal produced a fine Leinster Championships on the sand dunes at Cahore, Co. Wexford on April 14th, on what looked a rather unpromising area to start with. The dunes are long and narrow, with small paths running along their length, not unlike Dublin's Bull Island (in fact the similarity didn't end there, with wind farms inland at Cahore taking the place of golf courses on Bull Island). Without SportIdent the event would not have worked, but the courses criss-crossed the  dunes and provided plenty of challenge and confusion.
Strong winds and loose sand underfoot meant that there was a physical challenge too, despite the small amount of climb on the courses. Val Jones's 1:7500 Lidar-based map was clear but extremely detailed with small contour features, and was printed in two strips on the A3 sheet to fit it all in (some courses used a 1:5000 scale map). Within seconds of the start we found that, while the tracks looked enticing on the map, they were hard work when it came to running, and the dunes themselves could give better runnability.
Fingal Orienteers marked their 25th anniversary by staging the event, so well done!
Ger Butler, 2nd on the day to Darren Burke, took the Leinster M21 title and Niamh O'Boyle took the Leinster Ladies title, though third on the day behind Áine McCann and Niamh Corbett.
One of the most competitive classes was M50, with three former World Championships team members Aonghus OCléirigh, Brian Corbett and Colm O'Halloran slugging it out, to finish in that order.
Results are here.

Shamrock O-Ringen closing soon
Entries from twelve countries have already come in for the 18th Shamrock O-Ringen 3-Day in Kerry on the June Bank Holiday weekend. Word has spread about this event but Irish entries are still disappointingly low (less than half the total entry) and the entry so far is less than 150. The events are at The Black Lakes and Croghan Mountain, between Killarney and Kilgarvan, with the event centre at Killarney racecourse. These areas were used for Irish Championships and/or World Cup races and Shamrocks before and provide the high quality open mountain orienteering we have come to associate with the Shamrock.
The closing date is Friday 10th May. If you've been to the Shamrock before, you know what to expect, so enter now ... if you haven't been, enter now to experience it. You won't regret it! See the event details here.
As a warm-up, Kerry Orienteers are running a sprint event on the wonderful Ross Island, a short distance from the event centre on the Friday evening.

Coastal Warrior Weekend
NWOC's Allan Bogle  took on quite a challenge to run sprint selection races at Gransha, on the outskirts of Derry, and a middle distance selection race at Magilligan on the weekend of April 27/28. The events were aimed at the Irish World Championships hopefuls but were open to others to run.
The format was a prologue with head to head sprint racing in the morning, to decide the starting order for the final in the afternoon. Gransha is a pleasant parkland area housing a hospital, used for a variety of sports (well known in cross-country running circles), but scarcely of the complexity which will be encountered in international sprint races. A small piece of forest added some tricky navigation in the final but the remainder of the area was less exciting.
Magilligan, on the other hand, is an excellent sand dune area used for the British Championships in 1992 and capable of sustaining any level of competition.
Numbers were disappointing: did the "Coastal Warrior" tag sound too much like an adventure race in Sligo or somewhere and put off the orienteers from coming?
The events served their purpose, however, with Shane Lynch and Niamh O'Boyle finishing first and earning themselves a place in the Sprint at the World Championships in Finland in July. No results yet for the Magilligan event on Sunday, but they should be here soon.

Remember that the 2013 AGM of the IOA is on Sunday 5th May in Oughterard.
Recent changes and proposals about map registration and rules will be on the agenda so it's important that you are there to make your views known.
There will also be a meeting to reestablish the Munster Orienteering Council the same afternoon. Fingal's Tommy Burke made a plea on the Forum for a similar group to be reestablished in Leinster, to look after fixtures and the other things that need coordination. In fact it's a requirement of the IOA Constitution that the regional associations do this.

Am I all alone?
... but can we please have the old IOA web site back? The new version simply doesn't work for me ...