On 27th February, during a week when UCC was celebrating one of the most successful sporting weeks in their history , the formal launch of the UCC Sports Strategy 2019-2022 took place in the Aula Maxima. The strategy was created after consultation with the 55 clubs of UCC as well as with the wider UCC and Cork sports communities. UCC has one of the highest rates of student participation in sports among Irish universities, with a combined membership of over 4,000 students in sports clubs.
At the launch, Director of Sport at UCC Morgan Buckley welcomed the plans and the universities commitment to providing world-class facilities, a strong brand potential, and sought after graduates. Buckley stated confidently: “This ambitious strategy is dedicated to unlocking the power of sport and physical activity across all areas of participation, representation and achievement. Sport and physical activity is a growing business globally worth over €90bn annually. We have a real opportunity to build new partnerships to develop sport in UCC. We will work with Sport Ireland, the Institute of Sport and National Sports, and agencies here in Cork.”
In attendance of the event were several high profile guests including Greg Yelverton, Doug Howlett, Paul O’Donovan, and former Director of Sport at UCC, Declan Kidney. Also speaking at the event were Deputy President Prof John O’Halloran, Dr Fiona Chambers, UCC Clubs President Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin, Mardyke General Manager Patsy Ryan, and UCC Quercus Scholar and athlete, Mary Fitzgerald, winner of three gold medals at the 2019 IWAS World Games. Each speaker took a moment to highlight an aspect of the new strategy that they felt was important. Mary Fitzgerald gave a rousing speech detailing what sport has meant for her and the benefits of a sporting programme. Patsy Ryan stated: “The Mardyke Arena UCC is proud to be an integral part of the new UCC Sports Strategy. These are exciting times for sport and physical activity not alone in UCC but in the city of Cork and further afield. The potential for facility development and increased participation is huge.”
John O’Halloran stated the need for clear action to amplify the ongoing success UCC is experiencing, and also expressed his desire that all students benefit from the developments. “Transformation through collaboration” was one of the main points made about the transition by Prof O’Halloran, as he also unveiled the opportunity for “a UCC anthem for sport” to be created. He called for participation on all grounds, a sentiment Dr Chambers reciprocated when she described the strategy as “a catalyst”.
The strategy comprises of six priorities for the college to pursue, in varying aspects of the college’s structure. The first priority is to ignite the community of UCC by developing the UCC Sport for Life Club and maximising the existing passion for sport in Cork. Another of the priorities is maximising the UCC brand’s potential and become a destination online brand; making the Skull & Crossbones a worldwide symbol of success and sustainable value. The strategy also aims to grow and increase sport in UCC and develop sought after graduates by embracing a culture of wellness and participation, development, and excellence. Developing world class facilities are also on the agenda for UCC, as it was announced that a brand new sports campus will be constructed. The new sports campus has been earmarked for development on part of an eight-acre UCC-owned landbank at Curraheen, next to the Munster Agricultural Society showgrounds site.
The new park will replace UCC’s nearby Farm facilities by Curraheen Park greyhound stadium on the northern side of the Ballincollig bypass as the university’s main training destination. Morgan Buckley, said the existing outdoor sports facilities are under extreme pressure, with the Mardyke pitches in use up to 200 times a year, which has resulted in the university having to rent facilities for some squad training sessions. Mr Buckley said given that UCC will lose two pitches from the Farm when work starts later this year on a new science park and dental school, there is now an urgent need for new facilities.
Sport In Our Bones. Pride On Our Chest. Belief In Our Heart. These were the new slogans released at the launch. UCC has fostered a rich culture of success and participation in sport and exercise. The past month’s success coupled with the sports strategy look to ensure that the future for UCC’s sport programme is safe.