Major Sports Conference comes to IT Sligo

Donegal gaelic footballer Karl Lacey will be a guest contributor at the 11th National Coaching Forum, which takes place at IT Sligo on September 26th & 27th. The four-time allstar will be part on an athlete panel which will speak about the impact of good coaching on their sporting careers on Friday, September 26th in the Knocknarea Arena at IT Sligo.

The Forum which is organised by Coaching Ireland, a unit of the Irish Sports Council, is a two-day event and promises to be the biggest and most extensive gathering of professionals and volunteers  involved in Sport Coaching. The Forum will attract coaches, physical education teachers, sports scientists, National Governing Body personnel and policy makers. Leading National and International presenters will take part in this event titled “Fun to Full Potential - Coaching the whole Athlete”.

It will attract coaches, tutors, sports development officers, physical education teachers, sports scientists and policy makers. Leading National and International presenters will take part in this event titled “Fun to Full Potential – Coaching the Whole Athlete”.
The line-up of speakers includes:

Billy Walsh: Head Coach of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association whose successes to date at European, World and Olympic level are unprecedented in the history of Irish Sport.

Karl Lacey: Four-time All Star and current Donegal Gaelic Footballer will be part of a sports panel discussing the impact of good coaching on their career.

Sergio Lara-Bercial: coached the Great Britain Basketball Team going to five European Championship, is also a consultant for Sports Coach UK and has led the UK Coaching Children Strategy and Children Curriculum.

Richard Bailey: A sports scientist and philosopher has carried out research for many international sporting organisations including Nike Inc, the International Olympic Council and the International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education.

Dr Cian O Neill: Current Head of Department for Sport, Leisure and Childhood at Cork Institute of Technology, a successful fitness coach to Tipperary Hurling team during their 2010 All Ireland winning year, to Mayo senior football team in 2012 and more recently to Kerry in 2013.

Barry Solan: A renowned strength and conditioning coach who worked with Katie Taylor Gold Medallist at the London Olympics, also involved in the sports of GAA, Rugby, Soccer, Golf and Boxing.

Denise Martin: A Performance Analyst who has provided support to Irish Athletics in preparation for the last two Olympics, the Irish under 20 Rugby Team and various GAA teams, most recently Dublin Hurlers.

Missy Parker: An expert in physical education and the teaching of fundamental motor skills who has designed and implemented a range of school based PE and physical activity programmes and published 14 books to date.

Robin Cregg: Works in the area of coaching and elite sports development at the University of Ulster with vast experience in training and developing coaches from fundamentals to high performance level.

The 2014 National Coaching Forum takes place in the Knocknarea Arena at IT Sligo on Friday September 26th (evening) and Saturday, September 27th,

For more information, visit

Karl Lacey
Helen Quain Coaching Ireland, Donegal gaelic footballer Karl Lacey &  Olivia Sweeney Coaching Ireland.


Archaeology Discovery on Sligo’s Coney Island

Archaeologists have discovered what may be the oldest signs of human habitation on Sligo’s Coney Island.

A box-like structure built from large stone slabs was excavated over two days last week. It had been known to residents of the island for over 40 years but has been repeatedly covered by sands, then exposed by high tides, only later to be hidden again. Locally, the site had been called ‘the Sailor’s Grave’ as it resembles a grave.

But when Ciarán Davis of Rosses Point, an archaeology student at I.T. Sligo, saw the structure he recognised it as an archaeological site. Ciarán reported the find to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and in a matter of days the Director of Irish Antiquities, Éamonn Kelly, was on Coney to carry out a rescue excavation.

The purpose of the excavation was to determine the date of the archaeological remains and the type of activities they represented. Mr. Kelly and Erin Gibbons carried out the archaeological excavation in collaboration with I.T. Sligo archaeology lecturers Dr. Marion Dowd and Dr. James Bonsall, as well as Ciarán Davis, Rory Connolly and Alan Healy – archaeology students at the college. Dr. Bonsall carried out a geophysical survey around the site to establish if any associated archaeological remains lay beneath the sands.

The team revealed that the stone structure had been well-built on an ancient beach surface. It does not appear to have been a grave, as the local name suggested. Burnt and heat-shattered stones and charcoal found inside the structure indicated something different.

“Until we get a radiocarbon date from the charcoal, we cannot be sure how old the site is. But at the moment, we think this is the trough of a fulacht fiadh” explained Dr. Dowd. A fulacht fiadh is a prehistoric trough or pit that was dug into the ground and filled with water. Stones were then heated on an outdoor hearth and added to the water to bring it to the boil. The hot water could then be used for cooking, bathing, washing, dyeing textiles or brewing alcohol. The vast majority of fulachtaí fiadh in Ireland date to the Bronze Age, effectively between 4,000 and 2,500 years ago.

The discovery is exciting, not least because it seems to be the oldest known signs of human activity on Coney Island. Current results suggest that Bronze Age people, who must have lived in the area, built the stone trough on the beach, filled it with sea water, and used the hot water for cooking, washing or other such activities.

“The residents of the island are very interested in the discovery. It tells us that people walked the beach here 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, searched for large stone slabs, and carefully built this structure. Many other archaeological sites probably await discovery on Coney” said Ciarán Davis.


The excavation was facilitated by Daryl Ewing of Sligo Boat Charters who supplied the boat for the archaeological team between Rosses Point and Coney Island.

Ciarán Davis
IT Sligo Archaeology student, Ciarán Davis,
who made the discovery on Coney Island

C. Davis-Excavation in progress
Excavation work on Coney Island

Ciaran Davis & team 08092014
IT Sligo student Ciarán Davis and the Archaeology team,
which conducted the excavation on Coney Island

Dr James Bonsall
Dr James Bonsall conducts a geophysical
survey at the site on Coney Island

Trough after excavation dig
The box-like structure built from large stone slabs
which was excavated on Coney Island.


An Taoiseach Opens IT Sligo’s New MacMunn Building

IT Sligo’s new €17 million MacMunn Science Building has been officially opened by An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny, T.D.

The new facility will be known as the MacMunn Building, named after Charles Alexander MacMunn (1852-1911). He was a scientist, born in Easky, County Sligo. His discovery of respiratory pigments throughout plant and animal tissues (The Cytochrome System) remains a cornerstone of medical science today.

Several living relatives of Charles MacMunn attending Tuesday’s opening ceremony.

Listen to Morning Ireland’s IT Sligo report from Tuesday.

Watch RTÉ’s lunchtime TV news report here.

Watch RTÉ’s Six One news report here.

The new state-of-the-art facility completes a €35 million redevelopment of the Institute’s campus over the last five years.

This was the final public engagement for IT Sligo’s outgoing President, Professor Terri Scott. In her closing remarks, Professor Scott said: “I hope that the building the Taoiseach has opened will be a solid foundation upon which my successor can lead our staff and students on to the next stage in our development.”

She added: “It is my fervent hope that the medium term future will see the establishment of a technological university to serve this region in which IT Sligo will play a leading role together with our partners in the Connacht Ulster Alliance.”

The new President of IT Sligo, Professor Vincent Cunnane, also attended Tuesday’s official opening.
He takes up his new post on October 1st.

IT Sligo Science 3

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D. pays tribute to Charles Alexander MacMunn at Tuesday’s Official Opening of the MacMunn Science Building at IT Sligo.

Science Opening 6

IT Sligo Science 2

Science Opening 10

Science Opening 8

New President for IT Sligo

Institute of Technology, Sligo is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Vincent Cunnane as President.

His appointment, which is for five years, was approved by the Governing Body of IT Sligo.

“I’m delighted to be taking up the post of President of IT Sligo and look forward to building on its strong academic reputation,” said Professor Cunnane.  “One of my key goals is to lead the Institute and its dedicated staff and students through the next stage of its development towards the stated objective of becoming a Technological University.  On a personal level, I’m looking forward to returning home to the north-west and playing a leading role in the economic development of the region.”

Professor Cunnane is a native of Stranorlar. He was awarded his PhD from UCC in 1989 and has spent the majority of his career at the University of Limerick where he become the first Vice President Research in 2002. During his time as VP Research, research income trebled and publications increased by over 75%.

In 2008, he became Chief Executive of Shannon Development, contributing significantly to regional development in the Shannon region until the agency was merged with Shannon Airport Authority. In 2013 he returned to an academic role in UL.

The Chairman of the Governing Body of IT Sligo, Ray Mac Sharry has welcomed the appointment. “I have no doubt that Vincent will continue to lead the progress of IT Sligo, culminating in the attainment of the Governing Body’s objective of a Technological University for the Connacht-Ulster region.”

Professor Cunnane will attend the opening ceremony of IT Sligo’s new €17 million Science Building this Tuesday, September 2nd.

He will take up his new post at the end of September.

Professor Vincent Cunnane 1

New IT Sligo President, Professor Vincent Cunnane


STEM Careers Are Tomorrow’s World Today, Ireland’s leading technology news service, is currently spotlighting IT Sligo academic Dr Marion McAfee in its profile series “Women Invent Tomorrow”, which champions women’s role in science, technology, engineering and mathematicss (STEM).

With demand for STEM graduates growing steadily, she and her colleagues at the Institute are at the forefront of modern research and teaching methods that are transforming old outmoded notions of engineering and “science type” jobs as staid, messy and male by proving that careers now are digital-age, often ground-breaking and open to everyone.

“People think that engineering is heavy and dirty but it is the opposite of that, it is trying to make our environment and our lives and health better,” she says in the article.

It highlights Dr McAfee’s role as principal researcher in “Bio-PolyTec”, an EU funded €1million collaborative project which is trying to pave the way for people to receive better and cheaper medical implants faster.

The research team, comprising partners in five nations, says greater use of bioresorbable polymer material is set to have a significant effect on modern medicine, with important benefits for patients and manufacturers.

The main obstacle to wider use of the material, however, has been high processing costs.  Bio-PolyTec is developing monitoring and control techniques which will speed up processing methods and slash high rates of wastage of the costly material.

“I love learning in research and trying to piece things together in your head, solving problems,” she told “There are so many future challenges in the environment and transport and medicine, and personally I find it rewarding to be doing research to help make medical devices more available.

Dr McAfee lectures in the Department of Mechanical and Electronic Engineering and is also attached to IT Sligo’s new Centre of Precision Engineering, Materials and Manufacturing (PEM Centre).

Read the entire article at

Dr Marion McAfee with the President of IT Sligo, Professor Terri Scott, and Mr Ray MacSharry, Chair of IT Sligo’s Governing Body, at the launch of Bio-PolyTec last February.

GAA Writers Reward Sports Scholar Ryan

Donegal GAA player Ryan McHugh is busy making his presence felt in All Ireland football thanks, in part, to a perk of being a Sports Scholar at IT Sligo – free membership of the Knocknarea Arena gym.

Recent performances have earned him warm praise by GAA commentators but with Donegal aiming to win their way to the All-Ireland final he has just one target in mind.

That is, keeping his strength and fitness up in the hope of retaining a place on the Donegal panel.  And the Knocknarea Arena gym, with its top of the range facilities for developing athletes’ strength and conditioning, is proving a big asset for Ryan.

“The money that comes with the Sports Scholarship is a big help with accommodation and fees costs,” he says. “And, of course, you get your free gym membership. At the minute I am concentrating on building up my strength levels. That’s one of the most important parts of my game, and the free membership has really helped me.”

A “Man of the Match” performance against Monaghan in Clones, ahead of Donegal’s recent win over Armagh, earned Ryan the Ulster GAA Writers’ Association Monthly Merit Award for July. “It was a nice surprise when I was told about it,” Ryan said.

The coveted award has also previously been won by Ryan’s father, Martin, who is one of Donegal’s legendary football stars, and Ryan’s brother, Mark.

Ryan, who is about to start his third year of Bachelor of Business degree, is heavily involved in GAA at IT Sligo. He is a member of the Sigerson Cup team.  Ryan has been spending the summer getting in experience as a sales representative in his father’s company, MCM Spirits.

Just as the Writers’ award is very much becoming a family tradition, so too are Sports Scholarships. Brother, Mark, and cousin, Eoin McHugh, are in the ranks of the IT Sligo elite who have been awarded Sports Scholarships.

Ryan has warm praise for the scholarship scheme, which offers financial and mentoring support to athletes of outstanding talent. “There are three different categories of scholarship and I would definitely encourage people to apply,” he said.

Meantime, with the semi-final against Dublin beckoning, the modest Kilcar man is, naturally, hoping to be on the panel but knows that he has to earn his place.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to carry on and make the team for the Dublin game — but you never know. This Donegal team is good team, with a lot of good players.  But ‘touch wood’, as they say.”

Ryan McHugh with his UGAAWA July Merit Award
Donegal footballer & IT Sligo student Ryan McHugh


IT Sligo Partnership Puts Spotlight on Pollution Threats

The American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s biggest scientific society, is showcasing pioneering work by an IT Sligo scientist, Professor Suresh Pillai, and international co-researchers on how natural light can be harnessed to protect the environment.

The research team is in the final stages of a three year project which is aimed at devising a process that will utilise more effectively the power of sunlight to destroy environmental pollutants, kill lethal bacteria and protect aquatic life from killer toxins.

The project blends the modern science of nanotechnology with photo-catalysis, the process by which ultraviolet (UV) light generates reactive agents that can degrade threats such as toxins that can kill a wide range of water life, from minnows in Irish lakes to alligators in Florida swamps.

Just 5% of sunlight is UV.  The researchers are investigating the extent to which “visible” light, which is non UV, can be utilised to stimulate photo-catalysis and, so, radically strengthen its impact.

The ACS has accepted a scientific article by the team for publication in one of its authoritative journals The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. A video about the team’s research is also being featured on the Society’s website.

The team comprises scientists in the USA, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The article, which was selected as an “Editor’s Choice”, and video are available online*.

Professor Pillai is known internationally for research into how nanotechnology can help safeguard the environment and conserve energy.  His research partners are based at the University of Cincinnati, Florida International University, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the University of Ulster (UU).

Toxins being tackled in the current project can also pose a threat to mainstream water supplies, says Professor Pillai. “We have made significant progress. The team is concentrating on ways to degrade cyanobacteria toxins, which are a big problem in many lakes.

“Often when you look at a lake you might see a green patch. It all looks very colourful but it causes big problems because it contains a neurotoxin produced by some of these algae.

“We are currently developing semi-conductor nano materials which could act as a photo-catalyst. The aim is to develop material that will produce reactive oxidation species to remove pollutants by breaking them down into carbon dioxide molecules and water.”

Professor Pillai is funded to undertake the project by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) as part of the US-Ireland R&D partnership.

His co-researchers, Professor Dion Dionysiou at the University of Cincinnati and Professor Kevin O’Shea at Florida International University are funded in the USA by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The UU co-researchers, Professor Tony Byrne and Dr. Patrick Dunlop, are funded by Department of Employment and Learning (NI).

At DIT, Professor Declan E.McCormack, Dr Swagata Banergee and Ms Rachel Fagan are the major researchers who have contributed to the project.

Nanotechnology involves delicate engineering techniques and complex interactions with materials that are among the smallest ever detected. Visible only under a very powerful purpose-built electron microscope, particle activity is measured on a “nano scale”. One nanometre is one billionth of one metre.

The science has become increasingly important in Ireland in recent years, especially in sectors such as electronics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Ireland has a high international reputation for its nano-research and that is due to the quality of the professional expertise in this country and, also, government investment, according to Professor Pillai.

“The quality of nanotechnology research in Ireland has been ranked sixth globally. You don’t need any kind of introduction in nanotechnology circles when you say you are coming from Ireland.”

Professor Pillai lectures in Environmental Engineering and is one of the principal investigators with IT Sligo’s new Centre of Precision Engineering, Materials and Manufacturing Research (PEM).

Suresh crop
Professor Suresh Pillai of IT Sligo



GAA & IT Sligo To Help Keep Graduates At Home

The GAA and IT Sligo have joined forces with regional companies to help fast-track young players across all codes of the Association into a successful work career in Ireland.

IT Sligo’s Higher Diploma in Science in Computing is aimed at retraining graduates in a non-computer related discipline, and giving them the skills they need to pursue a career in an IT-related field.

The course is free for all successful applicants under the Government-funded Springboard initiative, and is open to any student who holds a primary degree. IT Sligo, which has been a national leader in online learning since 2002, has sought to develop this partnership with the GAA community, in particular, as it has lost many of its younger members in recent years to emigration.

The initiative has the backing of seven GAA county boards in the region. They are: Cavan, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Sligo.

“At a time when the GAA is losing so many of its younger members to emigration as they go in search of employment elsewhere, the Association is proud to support this online learning initiative,” said Donegal GAA Chairman Sean Dunnion. “It provides members of our community a new career opportunity and – crucially – helps increase the likelihood that they will stay at home.”

The initiative is part of a nationwide policy and is a direct response to the current skills needs of the technology sector.

“Between now and 2018, the projected shortfall of computer graduates in Ireland is 45,000,” explained programme coordinator Diane O’Brien. “IT Sligo is providing this programme to offer young graduates a clear pathway towards a sustainable career.”

The Higher Diploma in Science in Computing is a full-time course. The lectures and labs are delivered online. This gives students the flexibility to learn at their own pace and schedule.

A key component of this course will be a work placement with prominent regional businesses which will have a minimum duration of three months. This will give students the opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills.

It is open to any graduate with a level 8 qualification in an area other than Computing, or a level 7 with ICT work experience.

To apply, visit

The closing date for course applications is August 29th.

For more email the programme coordinator Diane O’Brien:

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IT Sligo At The Heart Of The Fleadh

IT Sligo Fleadh GraphicIT Sligo welcomes the world’s biggest traditional Irish music festival – Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann – to its campus this week.

The All-Ireland Fleadh, which attracts at least 300,000 visitors each year, was officially opened on Sunday evening by President Michael D.Higgins.

The Fleadh is a week-long festival this year, running until Sunday August 17th. The campus of IT Sligo will be at the heart of the festival from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th. That’s when the competitions begin.

There are 25 Fleadh competition venues across Sligo. 14 of them are located on the campus of IT Sligo. The Institute’s largest venue – the Knocknarea Arena – will be packed to capacity for two key events:
1 The Scoil Éigse concert on Friday 15th at 10.30am.
2. The All-Ireland senior céilí bands competition on Sunday 17th at 7pm.

A full list of Fleadh events and activities in Sligo this week can be viewed here.

IT Sligo extends a warm welcome to all fleadh visitors this week. The Institute looks forward to playing its part to helping to ensure Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2014 is a memorable occasion.

Here are six reasons for students to choose IT Sligo:


IT Sligo Sports Scholars Star in Russia

IT Sligo kickboxers Dessie Leonard and Alexandra Block put Ireland on the prizes podium with gold and silver wins at the 1st WAKO International Kickboxing University Championships.

The World Association of Kickboxing Organisations tournament was held at Bashkir State Medical University in the city of Ufa in Russia.  More than 160 athletes from 14 countries took part, including competitors from 20 cities in the host country.

Dessie carried off two gold medals and Alexandra won a silver.

Both are from County Sligo and earlier this year they were among 17 students awarded prestigious Sports Scholarships by IT Sligo.

They are members of the IT Sligo kickboxing club, formed just over a year ago, which has around 30 members. They also train at Collooney Kickboxing Club.

 Dessie’s victories were in the under 75kg categories of points fighting and continuous fighting, while Alexandra earned her silver in the under 60kg continuous competition.

Dessie is a second year BSc Health and Physiology student from Riverstown. His long list of sporting honours includes 2nd in the 2013 World Kickboxing Championships and 3rd in the 2013 World Combat Games Championships. He will be on the Ireland team at the European Kickboxing Championships in Maribor, Slovenia in November.

Alexandra, from Keash, is in her third year of BSc Forensic Investigation and Analysis studies. She was WAKO Irish National Champion at under 60 kg continuous last year and represented Ireland at the 2013 World Senior Kickboxing Championships in Turkey.

Sports scholarships provide financial and mentoring support to athletes of outstanding talent, many of whom may have already represented IT Sligo, their county or Ireland. Scholars are supported by the Institute in keeping up their sporting commitments at the same time as pursuing their educational commitments and goals.

Each said they had received invaluable backing from IT Sligo. “We have to thank IT Sligo for their funding support,” Dessie commented. “We couldn’t have travelled or taken part in the championships without the Institute’s help. We’re hoping the medals will give a great lift to the college’s kickboxing club and it would be great too if they make more students interested in the sport and join the club.”

Alexandra added: “I am delighted to have won silver. It means a lot to us to represent IT Sligo at our sport – kickboxing. We would like to thank IT Sligo for their support as our trip to Russia wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”



Pictured: IT Sligo undergraduates Dessie Leonard and Alexandra Block sport the national colours after winning two gold medals and a silver at the 1st WAKO University Kickboxing Championships. 

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