UCD High Performance coach Marcus Wehr chats to Alex Rathke about what the new sports facilities means for the future of sport in UCD.

UCD has a new student centre that will redefine the university’s sporting position within Ireland. The new centre will host brand new state of the art sports facilities which will be run by UCD Sport and Fitness (UCD S&F) from September onwards.

Before UCD S&F opened in June of this year, UCD already had some impressive sports facilities which included a number of astro-pitches, tennis courts, the National Hockey Stadium, a High Performance Gym, indoor sports halls, a climbing wall and Crunch Fitness. But with help of the student centre levy, paid by students as part of their fees each year, students now have the option of using the new sports facilities that have been added to the UCD campus, including the gym and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach at UCD High Performance Gym Marcus Wehr said: “My first impression of the establishment was that it was world-class, which is something that can be used in all different types of marketing. There really is top quality equipment that has been purchased there.”

In terms of marketing the facility, the Irish Hockey Association (IHA) have chosen UCD to host its World Cup Tournament in September. Wehr believes that the new facility “can bring a lot of international exposure. We have an international female hockey tournament here in two weeks. I have already been asked to host the Australian team in the High Performance Gym.”

Wehr said that the Australians had been impressed with the facilities and required access to the pool for recovery sessions, and was quick to remind students that “six months ago it would have been like ‘we don’t have a sauna, we don’t have a spa, we don’t have any of those things.’”

It is also an amazing step forward for UCD’s water-sport clubs, as for the first time in UCD ‘s history, they will be able to use facilities right on campus. Most notably, the UCD Swimming & Waterpolo Club has already taken full advantage of the new pool, starting intense training a week before the semester started.

Irish rugby, one of the country’s premier sports, has also made a few changes to their structure in terms of provincial plans. In March of this year, Leinster Rugby made the switch to UCD, moving their administration offices to Belfield. During the summer of 2012, the rest of Leinster Rugby moved from their old base in David Lloyd Riverview to UCD.

Leinster will be based in the established high performance training unit on UCD’s Belfield campus, adjacent to UCD’s state-of-the-art Institute of Sport and Health (ISH). In addition, Leinster will avail of UCD’s extensive suite of top class synthetic and grass pitches.

Wehr said: “I think that it will be quite motivating for [the UCD Rugby players] to see the athletes of that calibre, literally in the flesh, training on the fields that they themselves train on… Purely from a motivational point of view, I’d have to say I’d be pretty excited.”

With the ISH being based on campus, players as well as management will have access to academic career help as well as excelling in their line of sport. “We have two coaches who are in the process of doing PhD’s in Strength & Conditioning. One is about to start and the other is about to finish his,” Wehr said.

Physiological and biochemical testing platforms and sports medicine facilities are all provided by the ISH and they are located in the Newstead Building, though the ISH is not limited to just testing of rugby players. Athletes from all other sports will continue to have access to the high performance gym and ISH’s testing procedures.

In spite of these advancements, the University of Limerick (UL) is still one step ahead of UCD, making it the top sports college in terms of facilities in Ireland. UCD, like UL, has everything to offer to students and the general public, with the exception of the athletics track. Last year UCD downgraded their calibre for sports facilities when the running track was closed down. No work has yet been done to either restore the track or turn it into a car park, as is heavily rumoured to happen.

Even without the track, UCD still has something no other university in Ireland has, and that is a world-class gym structure. This is good news for the average student. Although we may not have access to the elite training facilities, any UCD student can now avail of a state-of-the-art gym and, if they are willing to pay a little bit extra, an Olympic-standard swimming pool.