Top sports athletes will be able to get places at an Irish university even if they do not have enough points, it emerged today.
Dublin City University (DCU) is waiving its points requirement for more than 50 courses to attract athletes who are competing in rugby, GAA, soccer and other sports at county, provincial and international level.
Professor Niall Moyna, who came up with the concept for the scheme, said it would help athletes who were losing out in the rat race for points.
“We talk about the lack of Olympic champions but if you’ve a kid doing his Leaving Cert and he has the choice of going to training for two hours or working for that extra 10 points, what is he going to do? So we’re saying ‘look, go to the training and if you’re 30 or 40 or 50 points out, we will allow you to come in, providing you are an elite athlete’.”
Colleges are keen to attract high profile athletes to boost the prospects of their own sports teams and also for the positive publicity they can bring.
But Professor Moyna, who is the head of DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance, said DCU was not simply introducing the scheme as a convenient method of recruiting sports people.
“We’re going to restrict it to 8-10 a year. So when we say elite, the type of athlete you’re talking about is extremely elite,” he said.
“If you’re a county minor footballer, they’re a dime-a-dozen, so you won’t even have a chance of being called for interview. You have to be doing your Leaving Cert and playing international rules or playing inter-county senior.”
Athletes will have to get two honours and four pass grades in the Leaving Certificate, along with whatever additional minimum standards are required for their course. They will also have to complete a portfolio of their sporting achievements, a short written statement and a formal interview.
DCU’s scheme is the first of its kind among Irish universities, although it previously waived its points requirements for athletes wishing to do courses at its School of Health and Human Performance.
This allowed Dublin football star Bryan Cullen to take up a course even though he fell just short of 465 points required.
“This widened opportunity is great for those who are committed to sport but also want to go on to third level. During my Leaving Cert year sport was my priority and training took up a lot of time – leaving less for studies,” he said.
Other athletes who have also used the scheme include Martina McCarthy who represented Ireland at the Sydney Olympics in the 400m relay, boxer Darren Sutherland who finished in the top eight in the World Championships and Kevin Reilly, the Meath County GAA fullback.
But DCU’s recruitment of athletes hit headlines earlier this month when four GAA inter-county stars were given 12-week suspensions. Westmeath’s Dessie Dolan, Laois’s Ross Munnelly, Dublin’s Shane Ryan and Diarmuid Kinsella of Wexford were deemed ineligible to play for DCU because their courses were part-time. But the GAA’s Central Appeals Committee threw out the suspensions on a technicality last week.