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DCU Sports Academy

History

DCU Athletics Club was officially formed in the academic year 1989/90 once NIHE Dublin was accepted for university status as Dublin City University. During the 80’s, NIHE Dublin hosted TWO Irish Universities Athletics Association championships (IUAA) – the cross country championships on the 9th of March 1985 and the outdoor track & field championships in Santry on the 29/30th of April 1988. From 1982 to 1989, the NIHE Dublin athletics club had between 7 and 25 affiliated club members annually – the most notable of these were Irish Internationals athletes like Brian Eiffe (Sprints), Richard Garvey (High Jumps) and Malachy Sheridan (RIP) in the pole vault and combined events. Richard Garvey won the first ever individual IUAA medal for NIHE Dublin when setting a new IUAA high jump record of 2.01m at the UCD Belfield track in May 1984. In the following years, Malachy Sheridan (PV, UCC 1985), Brian Eiffe (400m, UCC 1985), Una Mc Mahon (Discus, Santry 1986), Malachy Sheridan (LJ, Antrim Forum 1987), Una Mc Mahon (Javelin, Santry 1988), Una Mc Mahon (Javelin, QUB 1989) all won individual IUAA titles. NIHE Dublin formerly became Dublin City University before the 1989/90 academic year.

During the 90’s, DCU continued to win individual medals through Annette Kealy (3000m, TCD 1992), Tony O Halloran (10,000m, Cork 1993), Brian Mc Dermott (Javelin, NUIG 1994), Shane Lawlor (400m indoors, Nenagh 1995), David Kearns (400m indoors, Nenagh 1996), George Hughes (LJ indoors, Nenagh 1999), Kathryn Kelly (1500m Walk indoors, Nenagh 1999), Jennifer Mc Kenna (400m indoors, Nenagh 1999), and Jacqueline Mulhall (200m indoors, Nenagh 1999). In the early 2000’s, Jennifer Mc Kenna was the most dominant DCU athlete to win numerous individual sprint titles, outdoor titles at 400m in UL (2000), a 200m/400m outdoor double at Santry (2001) and a 400m title at CIT (2002) in addition to a 200m/400m indoors double in Nenagh  in 2000.

            At the club’s AGM in 2002 (10 students in attendance), Dr Niall Moyna, (a GAA /Athletics enthusiast) who had returned from the US to a take up a leading position in the school of health and performance, suggested that the club needed to focus on better coaching and use of sports science facilities to enhance the university’s chances of IUAA successes. A club committee of Niall Doherty, Gary Park, Damian Mc Loughlin and George Hughes got to work and acquired the services of Enda Fitzpatrick to assist with this process. Within one year, the vision and hard work of the committee, Niall (with sports science supports) and Enda (recruitment and distance coaching) witnessed DCU win its first ever IUAA team title – the ladies team winning the IUAA road relays title in Maynooth on Nov 16th 2002. Fiona Mahon (Meath), Katie Duggan (Carlow), Deirdre Mc Dermott (Kildare) and Louise Reilly (Cavan) were our first history “team” makers! This same quartet combined to win our first IUAA XC title (hosted by DCU in our sports grounds) on March 9th 2003. A developing men’s XC squad of Aidan Bailey, Colm Rooney, Ian Chaney, Peter Coary, Cormac Fitzpatrick, Paddy Boylan, Joe Robinson, Niall Doherty and others finished 2nd to TCD on the same day ensuring that DCU won their first overall XC team title (combined Men’s & Women’s team performances).

The short term plan was to get teams competing in DCU colours at IUAA championships. Enda, through his involvements with Irish and Leinster schools athletics, embarked on a mission to utilise Niall’s school of health and human performance testing facilities and soon a raft of talented athletes were pursuing their academics at DCU. The facilities of the health and human performance school would be essential in promoting a sports science approach to our middle distance programme (lactate testing, blood testing, running economy tests, body fats, etc.). Soon, athletes like Fionnuala Britton, Mark Christie, Eoin Higgins, Colin Costello, Danny Darcy, Linda Byrne and others were now donning the DCU crest – the beginning of something special was evolving and DCU were winning IUAA titles.

With continued team successes in the following years, the launching of the Athletics Academy in 2006 further enhanced the image of DCU as an athletics force – we were now broadening our horizons to sprints (with jumps and throws to come!) During these transitional years – athletes like Mark Christie, Fionnuala Britton, Eoin Higgins, Colin Costello (1 Year), Danny Darcy, Linda Byrne, Martina McCarthy, Brona Furlong, Leona Byrne, Gemma Hynes, Clare Brady and others brought great successes to the college. Colin Costello was crowned the European Junior 1500m champion, followed home by new recruit Danny Darcy. Fionnuala Britton finished 2nd at the European U23 cross country championships in Italy and World Student Games country championships in France where she led a DCU threesome of Linda Byrne (8th) and Ciara Durkan (20th) to team bronze for Ireland. Fionnuala then competed at the 2008 Olympics in the 3000m steeplechase, where Darren Sutherland (RIP) won Olympic bronze in boxing. In April 2007, (as host of the IUAA T&F championships in Santry), we won the women’s, men’s and overall best track & field college team for the first time. Niall’s initial vision and that of Niall and Martin Conry (university secretary) in setting up the Academy in 2006 was flagging DCU as the university to attend in Ireland to pursue athletics and GAA games (DCU won its first Sigerson title in 2006). In December 2011, DCU athletes Brendan O Neill and John Coghlan were key forces on Ireland’s European Under 23 winning team in Portugal – a feat achieved 2 years later when graduates Fionnuala Britton (1st) and Linda Bynre (8th) led the Irish Senior women’s cross country team to a similar success in Budapest.

In August 2012, DCU had 5 ladies competing at the London Olympics (4 men had Olympics B standards). Fionnuala competed at her 2nd Olympics in the 5000m and 10000m, Linda Byrne competed in the marathon, Deirdre Ryan in the high jump, Laura Reynolds in the 20K walk and Claire Bergin was a member of the 4 x 400m relay squad. Mark English, Brian Gregan, Paul Robinson and Steven Colvert just missed out!

Since then, winning IUAA individual and team titles has become a regular occurrence. From earlier days when 5 students attended the annual AGM, we now have over 80 in regular attendance; from 0 team titles to over 100 team titles, from 0 coaches to 10 team coaches; from 0 athletes living on campus to 50 athletes living on campus; from 5 to 10 individual affiliated athletes in the NIHE era, to a maximum of 20 athletes during the 90’s, we now affiliate in excess of 150 athletes annually to the IUAA database, all of whom are eligible to compete for DCU in universities competitions. The “End of Year Awards” function (introduced in 2013) now offers all club members their opportunity to nominate an Athlete of the Year Award, a Fresher of the Year Award, the Performance of the Year Award, etc. It brings a fitting climax to the end of every academic year!

DCU Athletics has come a very long way in less than 15 years! The Incorporation of 4 third level entities to one brand (DCU) further enhances and reinforces our ambitions to become the greatest 3rd level sporting Institute by 2025!