Well, the Indoor Championships were – to my surprise, held pretty much indoors! Other than the middle-distance events and the relays the training centre under the main stand at Santry managed to accommodate all of the events.

Just as well. Even Nanook of the North would have balked at competing in the cutting, icy winds which prevailed today (Sunday).

And the white-and-red of Crusaders AC was prominent all weekend. I’ve no idea when the famous singlet was last on view at these championships and the young athletes did the club proud. There were many good performances, happy smiling faces and a nice collection of medals that we didn’t really expect.

But back to yesterday (Saturday) morning and an ‘It could only happen in Ireland’ moment. At our National Athletics Centre the scheduled start of proceedings was delayed by a double booking – by the Irish bobsleigh squad no less! But whereas elsewhere officials and coaches would have been giving out and throwing shapes, here there was just a shrug of the shoulders and things got under way as soon as they could.

Saturday was sprints and hurdles. And outside was middle-distance, from 500m to 800m dependant on age. And with the clash of events inside and out things went rather askew. The U10 girls were lined up for their 500m for example, then it was decided to run the U11 500m first. The new girls were then stood on the line in the cold for a full ten minutes before being hauled off again. Not good enough.

Then, what I believe was a serious error. The splitting of large middle-distance races into semi-finals, with the final run no more than an hour later. Wherever the AAI rule book is (no one seems to know) it surely has more sense than to allow this.

That said, the officials of the Dublin Athletics Board are to be congratulated. They conducted a busy two days very professionally. And I know from experience how difficult it is to run a track & field meeting. The main officials were at once knowledgable, firm in their application of the rules but sympathetic to the young athletes, many of whom were naturally very nervous.

But one final gripe. One of our young Crusaders was slung out on Saturday for not wearing a club singlet. Today (Sunday) she didn’t turn up for her events. Is this the way to keep young people in athletics? (On the other hand I witnessed a similar incident where an athlete was given the opportunity to quickly borrow a teammates’s singlet).

Sunday saw the long, jump, high jump and even shot putt all accommodated inside. With all the athletes, officials and spectators it was all fairly cramped but everything swung along pretty well. Participating clubs are expected to provide a certain number of officials – I put my hand up for shot. I therefore spent a number of hours measuring mainly mediocre throws, but in these championships there’s happily no limit on who can compete. The implement weights are lighter for each age group than in the UK. I was interested to hear that this was a deliberate move in Ireland which has had the desired effect of getting more youngsters throwing. If so then that was an excellent move. Now all that is needed is to get these young athletes some basic coaching!

I’ll post a link to the results in due course. But a few highlights included (to the best of my memory)

  • Clodagh Ferry, golds in U10 60m and long jump as well as a relay medal
  • Grainne McGuill high-jumping 1.20m
  • Matthew Behan, medalling in U14 hurdles and looking the part
  • Emily Shiels, bronze in U12 long jump
  • The boys’ U11 relay team getting silver – I didn’t even know we had a team!
  • A great effort by the girls’ U13 relay team in getting 4th
  • James Woods hanging on to 3rd place for grim death in his 500m
  • All three of our shot-putters – Alix Hughes, Olibhia Collins and Isabel O’Leary, medalling. I’ve never seen such happiness on anyone’s face as on Isabel’s as she accepted her gold medal
  • On a rare foray outside for me I saw our girls U11 relay team leaping about, high-fiving, posing for photographs. They’d got THIRD place. And this sums up for me what a great, happy crowd of kids I’m lucky to be involved with.
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