The announcement of Pinks

Trinity News talks to Conal Campion on the announcement of Pinks – the highest sporting honour Trinity can give.

SPORTThe announcement of six ‘University Pinks’ by the Captains’ Committee was made last week following their meeting on December 8th. ‘University Pinks’, the highest sporting award Trinity can bestow, is awarded to deserving college athletes who have fulfilled strict criteria while competing for a University Club at both inter-collegiate competitions and at international level. ‘Pinks’ is a highly prestigious award, corresponding to the Oxford and Cambridge ‘Blues’, and is given to a very select number of Trinity athletes each year who have displayed outstanding athletic performance while studying at Trinity.

Selection Process

The Captains’ Committee, comprised of a Chairman and the Captains of the affiliated Sports Clubs, meets twice a year, in the Michaelmas and Hilary terms, and they alone hold the authority to award Pinks. “Each club has a set of Pinks criteria that must be achieved by the individual athlete in order for them to be nominated” said Laura Brennan, Honorary Secretary of the Captains’ Committee. “The athletes don’t just have to meet the criteria, they need to exceed it for them to be successfully award Pinks. For example, one criterion of the Harriers and Athletics Club is that the athlete must have won 2 intervarsity individual medals. One of our nominees, Conal Campion has won a total of 12. Across the board, all the candidates that were awarded Pinks vastly exceeded their respective clubs’ criteria.” The voting of who is awarded Pinks is a collective affair from across the DUCAC community. “There is a Captains’ Committee meeting every year where the captain of the club whose athletes are going for Pinks presents the nomination form, outlining their sporting achievements while in TCD”, explained Brennan. “If necessary, the Captains will ask questions. Then we all vote confidentially as to whether we deem the nominee worthy of Pinks,” she said.

Brennan feels that being awarded the honour reflects the amount of dedication and commitment an individual has shown to sport. The fact that the final decisions are made by the athletes peers adds to the prestige of the award. “The whole process is very rigorous, since the athletes must exceed the criteria and it is then up to the Captains, themselves a tough panel, being leaders in their sports and having vast knowledge and experience, in order to be selected”, she said. “Most of the athletes are in their final years of college, and I can only imagine how great it must be to receive such an award in recognition of their sporting excellence over the past number of years.” The Captains’ Committee will meet again in April for further Pinks nominations ahead of the Annual Trinity Sports Awards, where the ‘Pinks’ recipients collect their awards. Honorary Chairman of DUCAC, Cyril Smyth, has congratulated the ‘Pinks’ recipients, thanking them for their important contributions to Trinity sport over the years.

‘Pinks’ Recipients  

The six athletes who were awarded ‘Pinks’ at last week’s meeting were Conal Campion (DU Harriers & Athletics Club), Michael Corcoran (DU Boat), Eamon Fahey (DU Harriers & Athletics Club), Ian Hurley (DU Boat), Mark Kelly (DU Boat) and John Magan (DU Boat).

Campion and Fahey, both from DU Harriers & Athletics Club, are accomplished athletes medalling nationally and internationally in their events. Campion competing in the throwing events and Fahey in the sprints and long jump. Corcoran, Hurley, Kelly and Magan, from DU Boat Club were all part of DUBC’s unbeaten Senior VIIIs team last year and are reigning National Champions since winning the final of the Senior VIIIs at the Irish Rowing Championships in July.

Conal Campion, 1st year Masters Student in Mechanical Engineering, athlete and recent ‘Pinks’ recipient was delighted when he heard the news, albeit via Facebook.

“I just saw it on the Facebook group”, said Campion, “my brother [also an athlete for DU Harriers & Athletics Club] had seen it the night before because he’s on a mailing list, but he didn’t tell me!”

“It’s a big honour. I don’t know if I expected it but I met the criteria well enough.”

Campions’ humble admission is supported by a wealth of accolades, having competed 33 times for DUHAC since 2011, he has well exceeded the criteria required by his club for ‘Pinks’.

In total, Campion has won 5 Silver and 7 Bronze medals while representing DUHAC at the Irish University Athletics Championships, in the throwing events of the Hammer, Javelin and Discus. He has represented his country at the Celtic University Track and Field International for the past three years, recently captaining the Men’s Irish Team at this year’s International.

Campion looks back on the day he captained the Irish Team last June, as possibly his best day competing.

“I won the Hammer on my last throw of the event,” said Campion. “You get 6 throws and then the winner is picked from their best throw. I always have another level I can speed up to when it comes to the Hammer, it’s the one where you do spins with a ball and chain. I kicked it up a gear just to really go for it, you might fall but if your technique is sweet then you should be alright.” That day, Campion threw the Hammer a distance of 49.47m, securing gold for Ireland.

Training and Dedication

A calm and natural leader, Campion has captained the DUHAC Men’s Track & Field team at his athletics home in Trinity, showing huge dedication to his club over the years. Although, as a lone thrower surrounded by sprinters and long distance athletes, it’s usually a case of training solo and maintaining self-motivation in his disciplines throughout the year.

“If you ever see me training,” says Campion, “you’ll probably just see a lone guy in a pitch with a spear or a discus, doing his thing. I do the majority of it alone, I just do turns over and over again, working on my technique.”

It all began at grassroots level for Campion. His club at home in Meath, St Andrews, sparked an interest in athletics and he was running cross country from an early age. It wasn’t until he took part in the ‘kids shot putt’, essentially a sliotar throwing competition, that he discovered his knack for throwing things.

“I came 2nd in Ireland in the under 10 ball throw and since then I’ve been a thrower,” said Campion.

His coach, Phil Conway, a former Irish Olympian who threw the shot putt at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, has aptly coached Campion since his school days in Belvedere College, introducing him to the Hammer and the Discus. Campion still works with Conway, and has recently started coaching at the weekends at his alma mater, himself.

All this and a thesis on the side, Campion still intends to continue competing for Trinity. His next competition for Trinity is the National University Indoor Championships in February where he will compete in the Shot Putt and the Weight for Distance events. However his major competition for Trinity only comes round once a year, in May where he competes in the Hammer, Javelin and Discus at the National University Outdoor Championships.

Campion is anything but forthcoming with details of his achievements, however. When I speak to his DUHAC club mates and learn of all his mighty accomplishments and also his nickname “Campion the Champion”, it is his modesty that leaves a lasting impression. His accolades speak for themselves.

And still, all the while, he will quietly continue to train on. A solitary figure in a pitch with a spear or a discus, dedicating his time to the mastery of his sport.