The Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC) held its annual general meeting on Thursday October 13, in keeping with the tradition of holding the AGM on the third Thursday of Michaelmas Term. As has also been tradition over recent years, the AGM came at a time of discord within DUCAC and the Department of Sport, with the latter coming in for sharp criticism from a number of clubs within the University.
The epicentre of said criticism is centered around the recent resignation of Dublin University Association Football Club’s (DUAFC) manager and captain. DUAFC claim that the Department of Sport reneged on an agreement to allow the club use the new redeveloped pitch at the Sportsground in Santry. The club have claimed that Department of Sport ensured them, prior to redevelopment of the playing surfaces, that they would be permitted to train on the new surface.
However, shortly after completion the Department of Sport communicated to DUAFC that the pitch would be designated to be used by Dublin University GAA. This announcement came despite DUAFC forfeiting their playing surfaces a year previously in order for them to be redeveloped. During her speech, Michelle Tanner from the Department of Sport made mention of the playing surface, describing it as “a sand based GAA pitch”. She went on to declare that DUGAA were playing on the pitch that night.
It was to be the final AGM at the top table for outgoing Chairman, Cyril Smyth. Smyth has held the position since 2009 and completed the final year of his three year term. As delegates filtered into the Edmund Burke theatre and asked to present a valid student ID (one would-be delegate could not cooperate and was asked to leave), Smyth stood poised at the podium. His first act was to announce that the meeting was exclusively for members of DUCAC clubs and those who did not fit that description were asked to leave. There was a degree of speculation that the strict entry requirements, noted to be increased from the previous year, were due to the candidacy of student PJ McGrane from DUGAA. McGrane was bidding to be the first student elected to the position of chairman.
The election of officers took place at the end proceedings. Whereas the atmosphere prior to this had been warm but not particularly engaged, there was now a notable shift. The election of club representatives was a straightforward affair. There were just eight nominees for the eight positions so all candidates were elected unopposed without a ballot. This brought proceedings onto the election of just the sixth ever chairman of DUCAC. Cyril Smyth, outgoing chair, was keen to note that his four predecessors had passed on and expressed concern that the position of DUCAC Chair was a “death sentence”.
There were three candidates for the position. PJ McGrane of Dublin University GAA (DUGAA), Donagh McDonagh, President of Dublin University Boat Club (DUBC) and Gerry Kelly of Dublin University Football Club (DUFC). Each candidate was afforded three minutes to state their manifesto and convince the close to capacity theatre. PJ McGrane, who was bidding to be the first student elected to the roll spoke first. In his speech McGrane stressed a desire to “address the issues facing DUCAC” and to “re-energise” the organisation. McGrane’s pitch was that of a “student-focused” organisation that would address what he described as “disconnect” between DUCAC and the forty eight sports clubs in Trinity. The delegation, particularly those seated in the back of the theatre, who were mostly DUGAA delegates, received McGrane’s speech with enthusiasm.
The next candidate to take to the rostrum, Donagh McDonagh, spoke of the “daunting” task of addressing such a large crowd of people. His speech began with a reference to ‘Just A Minute’, a panel radio programme which began in 1967 and is hosted by Nicholas Parsons. McDonagh is a former Trinity student who went on to work as a barrister, senior counsel and circuit court judge. McDonagh outlined his history with DUCAC and pledged to devote “some time” to the organisation. Among his credentials, McDonagh cited his participation in the planning and building of the new demolished Luce Hall and the Sports Centre. McDonagh made it known that of the entire ninety-seven year history of DUCAC he had been involved for over one third of it. After being prompted by Smyth to conclude his remarks, McDonagh referred to Ronald Reagan: “I will not make an age issue of this campaign. I’m not going to exploit for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” The closing remark drew an audible exclamation from the delegates.
The final candidate Gerry Kelly was not present at the meeting but a member of DUFC spoke on his behalf. His absence was due to other business obligations. Among the pledges made by Kelly was one to work “for students” and that he had “early intentions” to run for this office.
The election of vice-chairperson saw Laura Brennan of Dublin University Harriers Athletic Club face Monty Badger, Honorary Secretary of DUBC, with the latter contestant winning the position.