The Irish Universities Riding Clubs’ Association, more fondly known as IURCA, was established in 1972, and has been building a path for student riders ever since. Personally, I had not heard of the association until I joined my universities’ equestrian club, however it is now one I, and many others, won’t forget. Although the headquarters are based in Naas, Co. Kildare, their committee members include students from across the country, many of whom you may recognise due to their individual achievements throughout Irish equestrianism. The committee for 2022 is as follows:
Chairman: Ronan O’Flaherty
Secretary: Clíona Ní laoi
Treasurer: Peter Dillon
PRO: Michelle O’Driscoll
DOC: Hazel Hourigan
Co NR: Ana Desmond
Co NR: Jeremy Eviston
OCM: Alannah Kelly.
I spoke to The Irish Universities Riding Clubs Association’s PRO Michelle O’Driscoll back in October 2022, to find out more about the association, her views on IURCA’s place in Irish Equestrianism and Team Ireland’s unstoppable performance throughout the year.
Who I am speaking with and what is your position within IURCA?
My name is Michelle O’Driscoll, I am the Public Relations Officer on the IURCA committee as well as a member of the Irish student rider’s squad for 2022.
How did you originally get involved with IURCA?
I got involved with Irish Student Rider’s back in 2019 when I was selected for the squad, however due to covid I didn’t compete until this year. By the time I had completed my first Student Riders Nations Cup (SRNC) in Belgium, I immediately wanted to become more involved with IURCA; they are such an impressive and friendly organisation, who do so much for student riding In Ireland.
Can you explain the main objective of IURCA?
IURCA oversees the running of all university equestrian events in Ireland, for selecting and training teams to represent Ireland abroad in the Student Riding Nations Cup series (SRNC) competitions, and at the World University Equestrian Championships (WUEC).
Pictured left to right; Anastasia Ripilon, Peter Dillion, Michelle O’Driscoll.
How many colleges and universities are you involved with, and on average, how many students do you work with across Ireland?
We have up to 20 colleges affiliated us each year, and we work with over 1500 students across equestrian clubs in Ireland.
Do you think IURCA has a place in modern equestrianism within Ireland, and what advice would you give to a student considering signing up to a university riding club?
IURCA undoubtedly has a place in modern equestrianism in Ireland. The equestrian world is highly competitive and with it being a mostly individual sport, we feel there is a need for an organisation that can make it both, a more fun, and more accessible place for everyone.
It gives college students who may not have a horse of their own or might not have the time to compete regularly due to college commitments, a chance to ride at both National and International events. Horse Riding is an incredibly time-consuming sport and trying to balance riding and college can be so difficult.
For many riders, the academic year can look a lot different to that of a busy competition season; IURCA allows for students to continue competing at a higher level; something which may not be a possibility for them during the academic year, due to both time and financial restrictions. For our international squad it is an amazing opportunity to be able to travel abroad and ride so many different and talented horses, as well as competing against some of the other top riders across Europe.
May I ask you for a comment on Ireland’s exceptional results at the student riders nation cup, most recently here in Ireland and the Netherlands?
We have had some seriously impressive results at SRNC’s since the return to competition post-covid this year. We travelled to Belgium in April, where Ireland won overall team, came second in the show jumping, and came second in team dressage. This came alongside some great individual placings, including a gold in show jumping. The next SRNC was hosted by us here in Ireland, where our team of all newbies, put in a very impressive performance earning gold in team show jumping, and having success in the individual competition aswell.
Most recently, in September we travelled to the Netherlands, where Team Ireland once again brought home an abundance of prizes. The team placed fifth in team dressage, with two of our individuals placing in the top 6 in dressage, cementing Ireland on top.
With such amazing results throughout the series, Team Ireland have ended up with the most points out of all the countries, earning a spot at the top of the Gold League for World Finals at the end of December. Our sights are firmly set on the World Finals, where we will send a team of 3 selected from our squad to hopefully defend our title and bring home the gold.
Pictured in left photo, Left to Right; India Rogers, Jessica McConnell, Michelle O’Driscoll, Alannah Kelly, Alanna Doherty, featured after their success at the SRNC in The Netherlands.
Photo on the right; Alannah Kelly during The SRNC in The Netherlands.
To finish, what are your hopes for the future of IURCA?
We feel that the future of IURCA is in great hands with our newly appointed committee, who are highly dedicated to ensuring the success of the organisation. We hope to continue to run fun, exciting, and competitive National events such as Tetrathlon and Intervarsity’s each year. We are highly reliant on our affiliated clubs to volunteer to run these events, and we are so lucky to have some very enthusiastic club captains, and committees that are willing to take on the challenge. We are incredibly proud of our international squad and their successes. We hope to continue to find the top student riders across the country each year and give them the opportunity to represent us both at home and abroad at future Student Riders Nations Cups.
Michelle O’Driscoll- Public Relations Officer for IURCA.
From reading this interview, it is undeniable IURCA plays an incredibly important role in the promotion of Irish Equestrianism and provides a vital pathway for young student riders across the island of Ireland, to continue to enjoy, and succeed at their sport. A few months have passed since speaking to Michelle, who herself is competing at the World Finals. Team Ireland’s performances over the last year display that there is no shortage of talent, and it is undeniable that Team Ireland will continue to do themselves proud at the World Finals in Belgium, which commenced on the 29th of December 2022. Best of Luck to all who have headed over to Belgium, although we both know you will not need it!!