.Irish Universities Athletics Association

Irish Universities
Athletics Association

" IUAA History "

    Formal inter-varsity athletic competition began in Ireland 125 years ago in 1873. The first ever competition between university teams had taken place nine years earlier when Oxford University challenged Cambridge University to a match on 5th March, 1864. The competition was held at Christ Church Ground, Oxford and honours were evenly split with both universities winning four of the eight events contested. The idea of an Irish inter-varsity athletics competition was first mooted by the committee of Queen's College, Cork and they hosted the first event on the Mardyke in the Cork Cricket Grounds on 19th May, 1873. All three of the Queen's Colleges of Belfast, Cork and Galway sent teams but Trinity College, Dublin chose not to travel as they felt it would interfere with their preparations for the inaugural championships of the newly formed (January, 1973) Irish Champions Athletic Club which were to be hosted by the Trinity Club in College Park later that summer. Queen's College Cork won the first inter-varsity championships taking ten of the individual titles to Belfast's three. Galway failed to register a win but filled some of the minor places on the day. Cork retained their title the following May with nine victories, when the Belfast club hosted the event at the North of Ireland Cricket Club grounds on the Ormeau Road.

    Athletics at this stage had a good grounding in the universities with each of the colleges holding sports meetings on a regular basis. The Dublin University Football Club Foot-Races had been inaugurated in College Park in 1857, the first formal athletics meeting to be held in Ireland. Queen's College, Galway followed with a sports meeting in 1863 and in 1869 Queen's College, Cork promoted an open sports meeting which attracted competitors from as far as Galway, Tipperary and Kerry.

    Cross-Country was established in Ireland in 1881 when the first championship was contested by teams from the City and Suburban and County Dublin Harriers. Trinity College formed the first University Harriers club in December 1886 and twelve brave club members participated in the new club's first Hares and Hounds race in Dollymount on 15th January, 1887. The Trinity centenary book tells us that the 'Irish Sportsman' reported that it was a tight race with the placed runners finishing very close together. On the day Cole-Baker was first home followed by Fry and H.R. Jones. In 1895 Dublin University Harriers (DUH) (Trinity College) travelled to Edinburgh to compete against the Edinburgh University Hares and Hounds. The Trinity Harriers were well defeated on that occasion but extracted revenge the following December when they took part in a rematch in Meadowbrooks and had the pleasure of having all of their runners, scorers and non-scorers, finish before the first Edinburgh runner got home. Later Glasgow University joined to make it a triangular match on occasion and the competition became a regular feature, being contested annually until the early 1950's.

    The Irish Universities first international against the Scottish Universities (Adlanta Club) was a Track and Field Competition in 1927 that was hosted by University College Dublin in Terenure Park. The Irish team won mainly thanks to UCD's Olympian Sean Lavin, who later that year won four events (100 yds, 220 yds, 440 yds & 120 yds hurdles) at the Irish National Championships. Scottish Universities last visit to the South of Ireland was in 1977 when they took part in an invitational meeting against the Irish Universities, Birmingham University and a BLE President's Select, in Belfield UCD to mark the official opening of UCD's new tartan track. In 1994 the Welsh Universities entered a small team in the Jack Sweeney Memorial Meeting hosted by UCD but, due to a date clash and examinations, were only able to field one athlete. However, the Irish Universities have a long history of competition against the Welsh. Trinity College Dublin had competed against the University of Wales (Aberystwyth) in the past and in 1964 University College Galway travelled to compete against the University of Wales campuses at Swansea, Cardiff and Aberystwyth in a series of Track and Field Meetings. Of course, Irish Universities have over the past years had a annual Track and Field International against the Scottish Universities and the Northern Ireland Juniors and U.23's in the Antrim Forum, hosted by the Northern Ireland Athletic Federation. This has become a very important and competitive fixture in the Irish Universities Athletics Association's calendar and has been of immeasurable benefit to the development of international competition for the Association.

    On the Cross Country front, the International held in the Santry Playing Fields of Trinity College Dublin on the 14th March, 1998 to mark the 125th Anniversary of Inter-varsity Competition in Ireland was the first Inter-varsity International match in Ireland since the World Student Cross Country Championships were hosted at the University of Limerick in 2nd April, 1994. The IUAA team was confined to those athletes studying in the Irish third level system and were selected on the basis of the results of the 1998 IUAA Cross Country Championships in the Phoenix Park Dublin hosted by the Dublin Institute of Technology. The IUAA Men and Women won the team competitions, with honours in the individual competitions going to Neil Caldwell of Northern Ireland U.23's and Anne McPhail of Scottish Universities.

    Ireland has had some successes at International University Cross Country. In 1958 UCD placed third team behind Louvain University, Belgium at the International Catholic University Cross Country Championships in France. Ireland's most significant result to date has to be when the Irish Ladies team placed third in the Second World Student Cross Country Championships in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 1980. Fionnuala Morrish (UCC) lead the team home on the day by taking third in the individual competition. The other members of the medal winning team were Gretta Hickey (TCD) 8th, Mary O'Brien (UCC) 17th, and Michelle Morrow (UCD) 21st.


    Eric Brady,
    IUAA Historian and Archivist 1998


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