That time of year had fallen upon us once again, where the annual migration of college kayakers descend upon a poor locality somewhere in Irelands remote backside. For this year the greeting souls of Letterkenny IT had the misfortune of putting up with all these “energetic” kayakers for the weekend. This year 16 colleges took part.
Our journey began with our first obstacle, getting everyone on the bus Friday morning. We had loaded ourselves with a fine collection of nurses, tourism, IT, and even a few outdoors came along, “surprisingly”.
Ready for the long journey north we set off in search for Letterkenny. In spite of having a world class bus driver (Barbara Burns) our navigation skills often left us scratching our heads when trying to located KFC, our accommodation and the swimming pool. The ring of Letterkenny saw our smiley faces a good 20 times over the weekend!
The pool was set, the paddles were wet and energy was in the air for Kayak Polo on Friday night. We had a staring team of six players to face our first match against Trinity. Darren Keogh, Johnny Englih, John Feehan and Alison Hughes were our fielded team with Susie Malone and Mark O’Connor as subs. Trinity had a strong team this year and showed no mercy in the first 3 minutes of play by getting two goals up. Castlebar refused to be trashed and once they got there feet/flippers a strong defence was held for the remainder of the match. The final score was 2-0 to Trinity.
Despite losing in our first match it didn’t dampen our spirits. Our second match was against Colaiste dhúlaigh(COLD). A change in squad for our second match with Ronan Shaw and myself replacing John and Johnny. Castlebar was still challenged in this match with COLD getting the first goal. Alison Hughes was to have none of it and her rapid response with the ball gave us our first goal of the day. COLD retaliated with two more goals and swift movement with the ball but this figure would have been much higher if it wasn’t for the critical defence played by Mark O’Connor. Ronan and Alison were working well together and this team work aloud for another two goals. In the final minute the teams were tie at 4-4. With time running out and players becoming exhausted by the over heated pool the crowd was enjoying this energetic match. Among the distraction of a swimmer in COLD squad Alison was quick to act and scored the winning goal.
The next day was an early start, much to the disagreement of some. Three teams of three went off to three different locations to take part in the white-water racing on Saturday morning. The overall times of all three teams was to be put together to form a club time. That meant that it was a team event and everyone effort was vital. Team one consisted of aggressive Alison Hughes, cautious Mark O’Connor and ridiculously comical Johnny English. This strange combination of paddlers ran down the beginners section of the race for 3km to quickly reach team 2 anxiously waiting at cross-over bridge. The change-over of bibs went well with much help by Johnny who felt the need to strip very rapidly.
Team “DUCK” (2) consisted of kind hearted Susie Malone, mean fighting Darren Keogh and myself. Our stretch of water was section 2(intermediate) and was 5km into Ballybuffey. Only two incidents on this run, Susie and I lost our rubber ducks on the river!
Team 3 or “Team Pain” consisted of Mad Hatter Toby Fisher, Smiley Face Eamon Thomas and, on this particular morning, sore-headed Ronan Shaw. These boys took part in the advanced water section. Despite our boys usual focused minds the lack of sleep was affecting some of their performance. Perhaps next time the organisers will schedule this particular race later in the day for our boys.
With the long distance still to be taken part we loaded up our bus, grabbed our ducks and headed for Gartan Lake. A slight distraction in the form of an ice-cream truck quickly brought up our spirits for the day. Ice-cream was shared with some great fun at side of the road while dancing and playing with the Queens University.
The urgency of the organisers to get paddlers on lake left many confused on the route to travel around lake and when the start horn was blown a herd of paddlers took off in a sprawl of directions across the lake and the end result
was the race covering almost three times its original distance. A comical site for onlookers but frustration was the final outcome. Despite the confusion two young, Johnny and Darren, kept with the pack in their Canadian canoe and finished fourth.
Castlebar and Queens sharing Ice-Cream
Our final day was a day of rest with wake up call been pushed back to half eight. The journey south to Rossnawlagh was one of comical surroundings when we came upon a suffering club. Poor Colaiste Dhúlaigh were crying for help on the side of the road when their trailer decided to commit suicide. Luckily help was at hand as every club stopped and offered to helped the unfortunate club. A great feeling of friendship between clubs was felt on this particular morning as club after club offered to help in any way possible to the sickened club on the side of the N17.
The remote beach of Rossnawlagh was to host our final event of the weekend, the freestyle. Despite Alison not offering to get into the water Ronan and Darren felt the need to pull her into the sea. It is a shame that she didn’t bring any spare clothes or shoes!
Eamon, Toby and I made up Castlebar’s freestyle team, but our standards were intermediate at best. Toby was exceeding in his heat despite a near collision on the surf with another paddler. Eamon's was harder to call as all four paddlers were of similar standard. In my own heat there was a clear difference in paddler’s skill level. Two were by far more experienced than me and had wiped me out in the first 2 minutes. However my good Samaritan act was done for the weekend when one girl came into difficulty in the surf and had to swim.
Overall we finished 11th in the Intervarsities but went away as if we won. New and rekindled friendship was found in Donegal and many stories will be told as a result of this migration. As for next year we hope to travel to Limerick to compete and regroup our kayaking friends.
I would like to take this time to thank Barbara Burns in her unbelievable generosity and willingness in keeping our kayak club going for the weekend. We love you Barbara
Kayak Club Captain