New Athlone indoor arena hailed

Leitrim athletes savoured the fantastic new facilities at the newly opened indoor athletics arena at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) last weekend, the opening of which were described as the “best news story in Irish athletics history”.

Leitrim athletes savoured the fantastic new facilities at the newly opened indoor athletics arena at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) last weekend, the opening of which were described as the “best news story in Irish athletics history”.

Leitrim athletes savoured the fantastic new facilities at the newly opened indoor athletics arena at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) last weekend, the opening of which were described as the “best news story in Irish athletics history”.

Former World Indoor Mile record holder, Senator Eamonn Coghlan said “This world-class facility will inspire future generations of athletes towards greatness for many years to come.” His “only disappointment,” he added, was that he would “never get a chance to break a world indoor mile record on its magnificent 200 metre oval track”.

The €10 million facility hosted the Athletics Ireland Combined Event Championships on Saturday and the Athletics Ireland Open Indoor Games on Sunday and according to Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of AIT and also President of Athletics Ireland, there is “an enormous degree of excitement and anticipation about the new facility. There is a sense that this is a development of considerable importance, a red letter occasion for Irish sport,” he stated.

The new arena “is not just a resource for elite athletes, “it is there to be used by the entire college community and, indeed, by the people of Ireland generally. We repeatedly hear about our growing obesity problem and the acute need for a society-wide appreciation of the importance of exercise and healthy living.

“The arena will directly support the realisation of this ambition, so from that point of view, it will hopefully have long-term positive health benefits for society.”

The International Arena has a footprint of 6,818m2 and an overall building floor area of 9,715m2. Some 850 tonnes of structural steel and 50,000 concrete blocks went into the construction of the facility which can house 2,000 spectators.

The official opening of the arena will take place next month, prior to the hosting of the Athletics Ireland Senior Indoor Championships on 16-17 February while Juvenile athletes from Leitrim will get the chance to compete in the new Arena when it hosts the Western Region Championships on Sunday, March 3.

IT Sligo to host Women’s Soccer Championship

IT Sligo is to host the annual WSCAI Intervarsities Tournament next month, the top event in women’s college soccer, boosting the Institute’s reputation as an expanding centre of sports development.

The tournament is the most prestigious event in the Women’s Soccer Colleges Association of Ireland’s calendar. It is the first time for IT Sligo to host the event since the WSCAI event began in 1983. The cream of third-level women’s football including some 15 internationals and potential international players will turn out among a dozen teams competing in the three day event on February 7, 8 and 9.

IT Sligo President, Professor Terri Scott, described the campus’s sporting facilities as second to none in excellence, adding that IT Sligo had a demonstrable commitment to sports development, including an innovative Sports Scholarship scheme.

Twelve teams will use the campus’s high-spec outdoor and indoor pitches and showpiece facilities at its multi-purpose Knocknarea Arena. The complex has championship floodlit playing pitches, including an Astro pitch. IT Sligo is one of four seeds in next month’s competition, which will have teams from as far away as Cork and Jordanstown, County Antrim.

Gerard Dunne, FAI National Co-ordinator for Women’s and College Football, said: “The FAI is delighted that IT Sligo is hosting the WSCAI 2013 Intervarsities, the showcase event of the season. IT Sligo has an excellent reputation for hosting college and university events, hosting the men’s CFAI Cup Finals and WSCAI National Futsal Finals in 2012, as well as Interprovincials and regional Futsal finals.” He also paid tribute to former team coach and lecturer Francis O’Regan and current coach and FAI Football Facilitator Emma Mullin for their work in developing IT Sligo into “a consistent top team in Women’s Football”.

Emma Mullin, IT Sligo’s FAI Football Facilitator, who is a Soccer star in her own right and also a coach, said “It’s a tremendous honour for IT Sligo to host the tournament. It just shows that we have great sports facilities and that players from across the island are eager to use them. Teams at this level have high calibre players, with some of them playing at international level.”

As well as adding to IT Sligo’s sporting and academic stature, hotels and other local business seem set to benefit too. Up to 200 players and officials will converge on the 70 acre campus and relatives, friends and college supporters are also expected.

Gordon Ryan, Head of Development and Business Operations, said: “We are delighted that visiting teams will experience facilities that our students and the wider Sligo public recognise as being top-class. It is a golden opportunity to show off the campus and the Knocknarea Arena, which can host everything from a student five-a-side match to a multi-media backed rock concert.”