As much as some things change, some things simply stay the same. Such is the case when it comes to Tuesday nights in Belfield. Even in the lean and unforgiving winter months, when one might be forgiven for thinking there might not be much going on athletics-wise, the pitches opposite the Sports Centre and their perimeter ritually become a hive of activity, with numerous distance running groups using UCD as their base for a hard winter’s graft. Chief among these groups is the UCD AC Distance Squad who have trained under the tutelage of renowned coach Emmett Dunleavy since late 2016. And it has always been on Tuesday evenings where the hard work has been put in. While our sprinters spent last trimester being put through their paces on the track and in the gym by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Level 5 coach Padhraic Duffy, labour which will undoubtedly bear fruit for them as the indoor and outdoor track seasons beckon this coming trimester, it was the distance running group which took centre stage through the autumn and early winter.
While there is much training done week in and week out throughout the first trimester, there are only two intervarsity events that take place in the first part of the academic year for the UCD Bears, as we have christened ourselves in recent years. There were encouraging showings all round at Colours Road Relays against the ‘auld enemy’ Dublin University Harriers & Athletic Club (TCD Athletics) which took place in Belfield on the same morning as the Rugby World Cup Final. Performances here were taken into consideration ahead of the big one: Irish Universities Athletics Association (IUAA) Intervarsity Road Relays. Hosted as always by Maynooth University in the beautiful autumnal environs of their South Campus, UCD AC have a strong tradition in competing for medals at this championship and this year was no different. In the Women’s race, run in a 1-2-2-1 mile (s) format, our A team of Kate Nurse, Danielle Donegan, Sarah Healy and Rose Finnegan bagged bronze medals to bring back to Belfield. In the Men’s race, run in a 1-2-3-2-1 mile (s) format, our A team of Fionn Buttner, Paul O’Donnell, Darragh McElhinney, Luke McCann and Christian McKenna finished in 2nd place to secure silver medals for the Bears.
As if this wasn’t enough success for one trimester, numerous UCD AC athletes raced well over the course of the club’s cross country season at county, provincial and national level. Most notably, three of our athletes qualified to represent Ireland at the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon in early December by virtue of their performances at the National Cross Country Championships in Abbotstown in November. Darragh McElhinney, Danielle Donegan and Sarah Kelly all donned Irish singlets and did us proud with their performances against Europe’s elite. As we enter a new calendar year, the intervarsity championships will be coming thick and fast for the Bears, with indoor, cross country and outdoor championships to navigate between now and the end of the academic year. As always, we will take it all in our stride, with plenty of medals of all colours undoubtedly still to come.
Ciarán Crowther – UCD Athletics Club