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Taoiseach launches EUR5 million DCU Sports Academy- A First for Ireland
Friday 17 November 2006

the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern pictured with students from the Sports Academy
the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern pictured with students from the Sports Academy

Up to 100 of Ireland’s top athletes are to become members of DCU’s new Sports Academy, to be officially launched today at the Helix by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern (November 17th 2006).

The first if its kind in Ireland, the Academy offers these athletes a comprehensive support environment in their chosen sport, which is established initially for three sports, Gaelic Football, Athletics and Tennis, in association with Tennis Ireland. Further sports will be introduced in the coming years.

Membership of the Sports Academy will entitle those selected to special scholarships and supports worth up to €10,000 each including on-campus accommodation, financial support towards college books and tuition fees, personal tuition, access to key national and International competitions, physiotherapy and massage, sports nutrition advice and high performance education talks and workshops.

The academy provides a holistic environment for the athletes. They will have access to all DCU’s world- class sports facilities including the exclusive high performance gym, a 25-metre pool, ice baths, indoor sprint track, an on-site sport medicine clinic with regular hightech assessments of performance levels, together with the best coaching and monitoring in Ireland.

At the launch, DCU President Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski strongly emphasised the university’s commitment to elite athlete sports development: “It’s time that Ireland made a quantum leap in the training and development of top athletes to ensure that they can compete on a national and international level with the very best in the world.The Sports Academy will enables athletes to do that during their college years, providing them with the finest sports leadership and facilities in Ireland, as well as creating an environment where they can excel academically.”

The Sports Academy is funded by DCU with the assistance of private donors and companies who will support the elite sports scholarship promgramme. The overall €5m investment including the university inputs will take place over five years.

At the launch, the Taoiseach was also enrolled as the Academy’s first life member. Eighty-five of the places at the Academy for this year have already been filled, including well-know sports people like Conor Mortimer, Bryan Cullen, Fionnuala Britton and Mark Christie.

The Academy will be led by Professor Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance, who has championed the development of sport programmes and facilities at DCU. He said: “ International competition in sports is intense now so top Irish athletes need a programme of support like that of the DCU Sports Academy to compete effectively with those from other countries. I am confident that our athletes will be able to perform at Olympics 2012 and other international events to the very best of their abilites for Ireland. We have already been working with GAA players for some years, and the Sports Academy will now bring that to a new level to the benefit of national games.”

This year, DCU introduced a new direct entry scheme for elite athletes to all undergraduate courses at the university. Previously they were confined to the School of Health and Human Performance. Athletes who spend a considerable amount of time training and performing can now gain entry to other degree courses like Communications, Business, Nursing, Science and Information Technology provided they can demonstrate their achievements in sports with a portfolio, personal statement and interview. Only a small gap in points can be closed.

“A very small percentage of athletes reach the elite end of their sport and the majority of sporting careers end when people reach their mid- thirties. The DCU Sports Academy equips sports people with the highest academic standards, so that they are well equipped for life after college and their sporting career,” says Professor Moyna.

Click to view RTE Six One News TV coverage, 17 November 2006