07 Dec 2021

Gallery: Ulster Athletics Academy has first outing at Finn Valley AC

The newly-launched Ulster Athletics Academy Squad held its first get together today with over 80 athletes converging at Finn Valley AC.

Athletes and coaches from across Ulster gathered at the Stranorlar venue with athletes from over 30 clubs included.

Multiple Irish champion Dean Adams was among the lead coaches with athletes and coaches ending the day with a presentation on injury prevention by physiotherapist Mark Hoy, a former national champion with Finn Valley AC who has been working recently with Championship soccer clubs in England.

Athletes took part in a number of disciplines with groups in sprints, hurdles, long lump, triple jump, high jump, shot put, javelin and endurance.

“The key here was bringing the young athletes together in a high-performance environment and in to an atmosphere of training and mixing with their own peers,” said Castlefin man Dermot McGranaghan, regional development officer with Athletics Ireland who is leading out the Ulster Athletics Academy Squad.

“The calibre of athletes present was very encouraging. The buy-in from the nine counties of Ulster was excellent and you could see the quality with the level of athletes who were there.

“The professionalism of this academy, we hope, will keep the athletes together and in the sport. Hearing a different voice - and the voice of coaches of a high quality - was excellent. The academy support afterwards, in terms of material that will be sent out, is another big positive for the athletes.”

Among the athletes taking part was Finn Valley AC’s Riona Doherty, who caught up with North Down’s Janet Price. Last August, Riona set a new long jump record of 5.30m in the Under-14 girls long jump at the Ulster Championships, breaking Janet’s record of 5.22m which stood for a staggering 46 years.

McGranaghan said: “We have top class athletes and they deserve this work and professionalism. The engagement of their individual coaches, their clubs and their parents is key to making this happen and, of course, the athletes themselves are the key people to buy into the whole process.”

Each athlete was given a copy of Athletics Ireland’s new Youth Training Diary, which was launched by Grace Lynch, an RDO, just this week. The Ulster academy athletes were the first group to receive these books.

McGranaghan said: “This will give athletes some motivation and also responsibility. The books include stretching plans, dietary ideas, but also keeps them accountable to themselves. It also allows them to build and keep a history to look back on if they want to check what they did during the time of a specific performance, good or bad.

“As a proud Finn Valley AC man, it was great to welcome them here for the first day of the Ulster Athletics Academy.”

Further dates are arranged for the Mary Peters Track, Peace Link and an overnight camp at Athlone IT.

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