OCI and Athletics Ireland both searching for new leaders
Irish women’s team face tough opponents at European Cross Country Championships
Athletics Ireland former chief executive John Foley has held his position for the last eight years. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Two and half years out from Tokyo 2020, Athletics Ireland has joined the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) in the search for a new chief executive. Both positions have now been advertised with a view to being filled early in the new year.
John Foley has held the position with Athletics Ireland for the last eight years, including the last two Olympic cycles: during that period Foley has overseen the doubling of Athletics Ireland club membership, from 29,685 in 2009, to more than 60,000 by mid-2017.
According to Athletics Ireland, “the association now seeks to recruit a suitable candidate to continue the progress made by the sport in recent years through the implementation of the Strategic Plan, 2017-2020”. Applications are being sought though independent recruitment agency Ascension.
The OCI has also highlighted the implementation of their new Strategic Plan 2018-2024, to be published this week, as one of the central remits of the new CEO. It was announced last month that Stephen Martin would be stepping down from the position he has held since 2006 thus including the last three Olympic cycles. Martin, however, will remain on board as chef de mission for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which take place from February 9th-25th.
According to the OCI, “under a new president and executive committee elected by the Irish national sporting federations for four-year terms starting in February 2017, the OCI has embarked upon an ambitious programme to help Irish athletes and their supporters achieve Olympic success and at the same time ensuring that the organisation is managed and governed to the highest standards”.
“The CEO will lead the organisation to ensure the implementation of the new 2018-2024 Strategic Plan and deliver upon the sustainability of the OCI, its reputation and achievement of success.” Applications for that position close on December 15th.
Meanwhile, European Athletics has released the entry list for this weekend’s European Cross Country Championships in Šamorín, Slovakia, and it doesn’t make for encouraging reading from an Irish perspective: both Yasemin Can and Meryem Akdag, formerly of Kenya, have again been confirmed as part of the Turkish women’s team.
Can and Akdag won gold and silver in Sardinia last year, helping squeeze Fionnuala McCormack into fifth. Although the International Association of Athletics Federations has put a freeze on all transfer of allegiances while they tighten up their rule, Turkey had already succeeded in making a series of such transfers, despite the fact Can and Akdag both still live and train in Kenya.
Four of the Turkish men’s senior team for Slovakia are also Kenyan born, including defending champion Aras Kaya.
Can will also seek to become the first athlete since McCormack to win back-to-back European titles, a feat the Irish women achieved in 2011-2012. In making her 15th appearance in these championships and 35th international representation in all, McCormack will also surpass Sonia O’Sullivan on the most capped Irish female athlete of all time.
A record 576 athletes, representing 37 nations, are set to compete in Šamorín, with Ireland sending a 27-strong squad, McCormack joined on the women’s team by Shona Heaslip, Kerry O’Flaherty, Michelle Finn, Lizzie Lee and Fionnuala Ross.
Unlike recent years the top three women make up the team score, whereas in previous years it was four.