EYOC 2021

European Youth Orienteering Championship (EYOC) 2021 Lithuania

Martina Rowe (GEN)

Countries can enter teams of up to 4 in each class of M/W 16s and M/W 18s. The Irish team who represented Ireland at EYOC 2021 in Vilnius in August 2021 were


  • Eoghan Whelan SEVO

  • Liam Cotter BOC

  • Daniel Earnshaw LVO


  • Meadow McAuley LVO


  • Oscar Rowe GEN

  • Daire O’Brien Kerry O

  • Dan Murphy LVO

  • Oliver O’Kane LVO


  • Emily Rowe GEN

Denis Murphy (LVO), Brendan O’Brien (Kerry O) and myself accompanied the team.

When we enquired about EYOC earlier in the summer, we were told that there were no plans to send an Irish junior team this year due to the Covid complexities. We felt that this would be a shame given that our juniors had already missed out on a full year of international competition. We were aware that many European countries had moved ahead of Ireland in relation to the return to some level of orienteering normality. We were therefore delighted to hear that an Irish team would, in fact, be sent.

All The M/W 18s had travelled to previous EYOCs but it was all new to the M/W 16s. The M16s, in particular, struggled with the terrain which was very technical. It did not help that the team had done so little orienteering leading up to the event apart from Eoghan who had spent some time at multi-day events in Europe during the summer and Oscar who had been to a training camp in the Czech Republic. The first day (long race) was a baptism of fire, but all felt that they did better as the event moved on.

377 athletes from 29 countries entered the competition (including 7 non-EU countries) accompanied by 79 officials. There was a very large number of very helpful local volunteers from Lithuania. The UK did not send a team, so Ireland was the only English-speaking country in attendance. Despite this, all the communication was through English, which was very useful for us!

It took a bit of time to figure out all the Covid Protocols, especially as we had a team consisting of a mixture of people from inside and outside the EU, but we worked it out in the end. There were some Covid cases following on from the World Championships in Czech Republic earlier in the summer, so the IOF were very careful with EYOC and there were several Covid Bulletins in addition to some Covid officials’ meetings in advance of the event to make sure that everyone understood the Protocols for the event. Effectively, the event was run in a bubble. In addition to the Covid requirements for entering Lithuania (eg EU Vaccination Cert or negative Covid test), everyone entering the bubble (officials included) needed a PCR and Antigen Test in advance. The competitors were housed in 3 hotels on the outskirts of Vilnius. Teams had to eat meals together and avoid mixing too much with the other teams (which was a pity as the social aspect of these events is very important). Masks were required to be worn everywhere, including at the outdoor arenas. Some of the teams had to make last minute changes to competitors due to some positive Covid tests before arrival. There should have been a social event and opening ceremony but these were cancelled due to Covid fears.

We arrived in Lithuania on Tuesday night and were all tested Wednesday morning in our hotel, we then had to restrict our movements while waiting for the results on Wednesday afternoon

The organisation of the event was first class. None of the officials or the M/W 16s had been to an event like this before so we didn’t know what to expect. There were online team official meetings every evening followed by a bulletin with final details for the next day’s race. We then met our team to pass on the information and to discuss logistics for the following day.

David Healy and Josh O’Sullivan-Hourihan were extremely helpful. Before we left Ireland, Josh held a Zoom meeting with the team and both Josh and David helped with some great map preparation work. During the event, they provided advice and support remotely as further details and information became available. Toni O’Donovan also helped with some very useful advice and tips.

The event was broadcast live on Facebook each day and there are hundreds of super photos available to view including some lovely photos of our Irish juniors. Each evening a short summary video with highlights of the day was released (3 or 4 mins approx). These are super and well worth watching to get a feel for this type of event. There was live commentary each day like the kind of thing you’d get at a GAA match here where the commentators knew the names and history (including family) of all of the best competitors. It was all very exciting.


In order that competitors would gain some familiarity with the terrain there were some model events on Wednesday and Thursday before the long event on Friday.

Day 1 – Long Event

This was held in a forest North of Vilnius – about 30 mins. There was a quarantine and a pre-start before the start itself – so quite a complex set up and a long time waiting for those with a late start time.

The course was very technical with lots of contour detail and compass work required. We just don’t have this kind of terrain in Ireland. Runnability was good but visibility very limited by heavy undergrowth.

Extract from Bulletin, “The terrain is moderately to very hilly (height difference between the lowest and the highest points are up to 110 m). Southern part of the terrain consists of steep slopes facing the river Neris with numerous re-entrants and erosion gulleys. Northern part is a moraine type terrain abundant with depressions, small hills and medium-sized slopes. There are a few small boulders scattered across the area. Marshes are scarce and are mostly found along the streams in the river slope, some of them are overgrown with nettles. The area along the streamlet in the western part is affected by beavers, with small dams, ponds and burrowed trees. The forest has a reduced runnability with portions of dense bushy areas overgrown with hazel and nettles. Moderate network of roads, tracks and rides. Some rides and paths are overgrown with grass and less noticeable”

Oliver had an early start time, 6th start in M16 and Dan was last out 3 hours later. Dan had a GPS tracker. These were given to the competitors at the end of the races on the first day but only given to selected individuals on days 2 and 3.

*Oliver hurt his calf towards the end of the course and was hobbling by the finish.

Day 2 Relay

The Relay was in the same place as the Long. Oliver was injured so Dan ran in the relay. Girls ran in mixed relay – Meadow had to do the mass start with some much larger M18s!

Day 3 Sprint – old town of Vilnius

The Old Town of Vilnius – one of the few remaining medieval towns in Northern/Eastern Europe - is characterized by asymmetrical street layout with residential and commercial buildings with numerous backyards and narrow passages. The running surface is mostly paved with tarmac, tiles or cobblestones. There are many passages through or in between the buildings.

Small parks and gardens with lawns and scattered trees appear throughout the urbanized areas. The Old Town is situated on a gradually steepening slope which amounts to an altitude difference of 35 meters. The north-eastern part of the competition area is dominated by a public park that is flat, containing numerous footpaths, lawns and scattered trees.

*In M16s Oscar was disqualified when he ran past a control which was near the spectator control and got distracted by the arena noise – his time would have been approx. 18 mins otherwise – about 84th position.

And then it was back to more PCR tests for the flight home and an afternoon spent on electric scooters around the beautiful old town of Vilnius. The bubble worked as there were no reported Covid cases relating to the event.

The Czech team were the overall winners of the event. They travelled with 2 orienteering coaches from their federation and a team physio. I brought 3 of our juniors to a training camp earlier in the summer in Czech and it was a really worthwhile experience. Orienteering is a popular sport in Czech, with approximately 10,000 registered orienteers out of a population of 10,000,000. There are over 200 orienteering clubs with 200 events per year, each one attended by up to 2000 entrants. If we want to give our Juniors the best opportunity to be competitive at this level, we need to make sure that they get to spend more time running or training on this sort of technical terrain. I think the team would have benefitted enormously from attending the EYOC Training camps which are held in advance of the events.

This was a brilliant trip. Thank you to Orienteering Ireland and the selectors for supporting our juniors and facilitating us by entering the team. All of the team seemed to really enjoy the trip. Our best individual results were from Emily in the sprint (50th) and Eoghan in the relay, but I think all seemed to be inspired by the event and hopefully returned home with a dream of coming back to these events in the future and being more competitive next time. Looking forward to EYOC 2022 in Hungary.