LACK of indoor facilities cooling Juvenile progress
Last weekend highlighted the contrasting sides of athletics. While over 300 hardy souls battled snow, icy winds and bitter cold at the Wicklow Ultra and Trail Runs, around 1,200 youngsters were warm and snug at the Athlone indoor arena, where they were competing in the Woodie's DIY National Juvenile Indoors.
The new arena in Athlone couldn't have come at a better time – athletics is experiencing a boom because of the ongoing recession and indoor arenas, such as Athlone, will bring more youngsters into the sport and keep them there.
Yes, there are teething problems with the new arena, with both officials and athletes in particular needing time to get used to the facilities – in particular the state-of-the-art timing system – but if records are anything to go by, the new arena is already a massive success.
Marcus Lawler of St Laurence O'Toole set a new Irish junior 200m record with a time of 21.29, breaking his own time of 21.31. Sligo's Zak Irwin and City of Lisburn's Megan Marrs both ran 60m records, while Alanna Lally of Galway City Harriers improved the W18 400m best to 55.87. Highlight in the field was an 18.11m throw from John Kelly of Finn Valley in the M18 shot.
A rare record by a Dublin athlete came in the W19 long jump, won by Mid Sutton's Sarah McCarthy.
Which underlies a small problem. While much of the country has access to indoor training for the technical events, Dublin has one over-used 60m track at Santry. The Dublin "indoors" traditionally takes place outdoors.
From Santry on the northside to Greystones in Co Wicklow, there is not one decent facility, either indoors or outdoors, for athletes training in the technical events. Since the shameful closure of the track at UCD, southside athletics clubs are under particular strain and Irishtown is packed to bursting. The signs of overuse are visible, with the track disintegrating and the shot put circle flooding regularly.
The good news is that a couple of south Dublin clubs are seeking a venue for indoor training modelled on Nenagh. Far from going into extinction, the long-standing Nenagh facility is experiencing higher numbers than ever.
Not every athlete seeks to test themselves with gruelling winter runs in the Wicklow hills. Let's hope technical athletes in the Dublin area can soon come in from the cold!