The President of Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Professor Ciarán Ó’Catháin, has been elected the new President of Athletics Ireland.
Prof. Ó Catháin replaces Liam Hennessy who held the post for the past four years, the maximum allowed under the constitution of the federation. Mr Hennessy, a current member of the European Athletics Council, has served the
board of Irish athletics in varied roles without break since 1978.
As chairman of the Finance and Risk Committee of Athletics Ireland for the past two years, Prof. Ó Catháin, along with new Chief Executive John Foley, steered the association into the black after some challenging years since the beginning of the financial crises in 2008.
In a well received acceptance speech, the new president outlined his vision for the sport. “We are not in the marketplace for miracles, but our stock in trade is hard work and hope,” he said. “That permeates all levels. I want to see our association work harder than ever – to build on the progress that has been made in terms of coaching and development, on placing the association on a soundfinancial footing, on enhancing our high performance structures – and I want hope and success to be the fruits of that labour.
“We must engage even more with the general public through all branches of the media.Utilising Facebook and Twitter, for example, should become as instinctive to us as placing the hurdles on the track. We should not be afraid to say what we stand for and to highlight the excellent work that we do,” he added.
He outlined his priorities for the next two years as listening to the voice of the athlete, and recognising the role of volunteers in the association. Encouraging greater numbers of athletes to get involved with the association, he said, would ensure the baton was successfully passed on to the next generation.
“At a practical level, this can be achieved through co-opting our club athletes onto the committee and sub-group structure of Athletics Ireland. This is an approach that I have adopted throughout my professional career, and it is one that is working particularly well at AIT, where students are represented on every committee in the institute. Such a philosophy creates a sense of ownership that will be particularly important for the on-going success of our organisationlong after London 2012,” he stated.
With 280 affiliated clubs, the volunteer ethos is particularly vibrant in Athletics Ireland. Prof. Ó Catháin said that he wanted to highlight their role during his presidency, and to underline its importance. “I also want to see us recruit new, well-trained people, so that we have a constant influx of fresh enthusiasm into the organisation,” he noted.
Athletics is the fastest growing sport in the country, with a target of 40,000 members by the end of 2012 – an increase of 60% in the last five years. According to Prof. Ó Catháin, “with the growing focus on public health and fitness levels through Operation Transformation and now Senator Coghlan’s pilot programme at school level, Athletics Ireland is ideally
placed to drive this national agenda. The success of Fit4Life shows what we can do as an association in this regard,” he said.
Prof. Ó Catháin is a member of the inaugural National Technical Official (NTO) panel for Athletics Ireland. He has also passed on his deep love for the sport to his children – his two sons, Ciarán (22) is a 14 second 110m hurdler and Lorcán (20) is a 21 second 200m sprinter.
Under his stewardship at AIT, a multi-million sports campus has been developed at the institute. An outdoor 400m track was built three years ago and a new state-of-the art 200m indoor track and sports arena is currently under construction.