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Olympic hopefuls forced to miss college lectures to commute for training

A number of young athletes on sport scholarships in Dublin City University no longer have access to suitable facilities in the capital.

ONE OF IRELAND’S most promising young track and field athletes, Michaela Walsh, moved to Dublin to take up a scholarship with DCU last September — but a lack of suitable facilities means she has to travel back outside the capital for training.

The Mayo native, who won bronze in the 2017 European U20 Athletics Championships in the hammer event, is part of a group of athletes who are forced to miss college lectures and travel for hours on public transport to train.

General view of Morton Stadium ahead of the event Morton Stadium in Santry. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Previously, athletes had access to the throwing circle at Morton Stadium in Santry — located just two kilometres from DCU — but that facility, the national athletics stadium, is no longer fit for purpose due to a crack in the surface.

Additionally, the staging of Gaelic and soccer matches on the stadium’s infield means management is not keen for the playing surface to be damaged by javelins, shot puts and hammers, leading to a disappointing situation for athletes and their coaches.

It means Walsh, who had access to a throwing circle at home in Swinford, now has to travel to Dunboyne, County Meath to train during the week, forcing her to miss chunks of her college timetable.

“It’s really hard,” she says. “Over the winter it affected my training because we had nowhere to train in Dublin. For me to train I had to go out to Dunboyne, which means getting two trains and a bus out. Then I have to try to balance that with trying to go to lectures and it’s basically impossible.

“At home I would have said it was hard to throw, but it’s way harder up here. It has influenced my hammer big time, which would have been the one I would have been trying to look at to do at a major level.

“And it’s not just like it’s one person — there are loads of throwers in DCU so it’s affecting a lot of us. It’s annoying.”

Walsh is studying physical education and biology in DCU after taking up one of the college’s prestigious sports scholarships, which gives her access to the campus’ state-of-the-art gym facilities.

But with the U23 European Championships taking place in Sweden this July, Walsh fears she may fall behind in college as training intensifies ahead of an important summer for her burgeoning athletics career. 

“I have to miss the odd lecture here or there and have a word with the lecturers,” she continues.

edit Walsh at today's Irish Life event in Abbotstown. Source: Sportsfile

“But coming up to competitions I would have been talking to Adam King, who does the hammer as well, and he says just to compete at the Europeans, to get the training we need before, we won’t be able to attend lectures, which affects you when it comes to exams because you’re falling behind. We’re trying to balance both.”

She adds: “We don’t have anywhere to all go and train together. We do gather in Tullamore every now and again but that used to be a weekly thing, now it’s once a month.” 

In the short-term, Walsh will be in action at the Irish Health Junior and U23 Indoor National Championships in Abbotstown this Sunday, as she focuses on the shot put event having been introduced to the sport by chance as a teenager.

“I started off as a runner and at the Mayo championships, they entered me in the shot put by mistake,” Walsh laughs.

I just did the competition for the craic of it and one of the officials asked me to come train with them, which was about half an hour from where I live in Mayo. I’ve been there ever since.

“Sport would have always been the main thing in my house. Sport was in me since when I was young. I was the one at home begging to join an athletics club and I remember being turned away at six because I was too young.” 

Michaela Walsh was speaking today at the announcement of Irish Life Health as an official partner to Athletics Ireland, backing a sport that delivers on health, wellness and lifelong activity.

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Ryan Bailey

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