UCD Athletics Club is one of the most successful sports clubs in the history of the UCD. Aside from the numerous individual and team intervarsity medals the club has won since 1911, UCD AC has produced more Olympians and World Championship competitors than any other sports club in the University’s history. Just some of the notable alumni of the club are Derval O’Rourke, James Nolan, Mark English, David Matthews, Ciara Mageean. David Matthews, Joanne Cuddihy and Ciara Everard.

The first tartan athletics track in the Republic of Ireland was the old Belfield track which now lies in rack and ruin after being controversially replaced by a car park in 2014. However, the future looks bright on this front after UCD Sport announced in the last academic year, that an anonymous angel investor is going to provide most of the funding for a new running track and athletics facility, with the hopes of completion by 2020.

The club is thriving nonetheless, according to men’s distance running team captain Eamonn Murphy. On the middle and long distance running side, a typical week in the club consists of two group workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays with additional group runs throughout the rest of the week as well as a team gym session which takes place on Wednesdays. Most workouts are completed on a loop on the sports pitches while runs tend to take place on a scenic loop of the entire Belfield campus.

The distance runners are coached by one of the top distance runners in Ireland, Emmett Dunleavy. The vastly experienced 37-year-old has amassed his coaching wisdom over the years under the tutelage of people like Irish distance running legend Olympian Jerry Kiernan, who can be seen coaching marathon runners on Tuesday nights in UCD, as well as spending time with former Olympic bronze medallist and World Champion race walker Rob Heffernan.

Murphy emphasises that the athletics club is one which is very inclusive and open in nature. All runners of a range of abilities train together, especially on Tuesday nights. It is clear from talking to Murphy that UCD AC is a very welcoming club, which explains its consistent popularity among students. The cream of the distance running crop in the club are a very committed bunch, says Murphy, often involving training 6 days a week.

Equal levels of dedication and commitment is shown on the sprinting and field events side of the athletics club. It is these athletes, however, that have perhaps suffered the most since the old Belfield track was ripped up. They make the journey to Irishtown Stadium in the Ringsend area of Dublin 4 twice a week to train, as well as doing multiple sessions in the gym and on the grass in UCD throughout the week. Stephen Gaffney, himself a former club captain, is the club’s current coach.

The club is involved in many events throughout the year. According to Murphy, the club will be going on a team trip to Curracloe in Co.Wexford soon and they also travel to Monte Gordo in Portugal during the March break every year for a warm weather training holiday. This particular trip has become the stuff of legend within the club, providing an opportunity for members to socialise and let their hair down.

In terms of intervarsity competition, the athletics club enters numerous teams in the Intervarsity Road Relays which take place every November. Early in the second semester, the club competes in the Intervarsity Indoor Track and Field Championships in Athlone IT, before the marquee events of the year the Intervarsity Cross Country Championships and the Intervarsity Outdoor Track and Field Championships. They are hosted by different universities from year to year on a rotating basis. UCD AC also compete against DUHAC, (aka Trinity College Dublin) in three so-called ‘Colours’ events throughout the year which act as warm-up events for the road relay, cross country and track and field championships.  

After talking to Murphy, it is evident that UCD Athletics Club is a sports club where every individual can reach their potential, whatever their goals may be. Whoever you are and whatever level you’re at, if you are interested in getting involved, UCD AC can be contacted through all forms of social media as well as by emailing athletics@ucd.ie. Alternatively, the University Observer understands that various members of the club regularly frequent the Poolside Café for their famous coffee sessions. They may be nicknamed the UCD Bears, but they don’t bite!