Sunday, March 3, 2024

Templemore garda fitness: How hard can it be?

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There was a time when there was no shortage of recruits for An Garda Síochána when jobs were scarce and permanent, pensionable ones rarer still.

In these days of full employment the force has to compete with so many other employers for recruits. A recent Labour Court ruling that the upper age limit for gardaí at 35 was discriminatory now means An Garda Síochána can recruit up to the age of 50.

Garda management conceded the new age limit was needed, but refused to concede on the strictures of the fitness test despite claims by some politicians that it was putting off potential recruits.

The test at the Garda training college in Templemore consists of three stages. The first is 20m shuttle runs over and back at 60-second intervals, the so-called bleep test. The minimum requirement is 6.6 shuttles for women over the age of 26 and 8.8 for males under the age of 25.

Unsurprisingly the best result achieved by participating media was by the strapping TG4 reporter and former Dublin hurler Donncha Ó Murchú who, at 28, would be expected to achieve a high score.

The highest score of all, though, was achieved by Sgt Seán Mac Seoin, of the Garda Press Office who is a relatively venerable 51. He completed 12 successive circuits, the highest number possible. He is a member of Castleknock GAA club and St Brigid’s Athletic Club. He’s also a regular marathon runner.

“I think it shows that people well into their 40s are able to get to the level that is required,” he said. “If they are in a running club or with a football or hurling [club], they will find their fitness should be good enough. Everybody who is involved in active sport will fly through this test.”

The other parts of the test involve sit-ups, push-ups and a circuit obstacle course designed to replicate many of the obstacles encountered by gardaí on a day-to-day basis such as stairs, gates and even a replica dead body which has to be dragged from one place to another.

Garda recruit Sinéad Roche (24) from Limerick city was a special needs assistant and personal trainer before joining the Garda training college in Templemore in July.

“Fitness is always something I have had an interest in. Going to the gym is one of my main hobbies. I enjoy staying fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I found the fitness test to be no problem. The bleep test is a great way to test your fitness.”

About 30 per cent of those who do the test fail it, said Sgt Pat Kirwan, a fitness instructor at the college, but that is with the current age limit of 35.

He said those who wished to pass the test should prepare for it, but beware that the technique for passing the sit-ups and push-ups are different from what is often taught by personal trainers.

“My message is that once they [potential recruits] have submitted their application form, they need to start training,” he said.

The deadline for applications to the force is this Wednesday. Only then will An Garda Síochána know if its expanded recruitment base will see more potential gardaí come forward.

This is the third year in a row that an annual Garda recruitment drive has been carried out as the Government pushes to increase numbers in the force. There have been ads in newspapers, on television and social media, targeting Irish people living in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The last campaign, which closed in April 2023, received about 5,000 applications and at the end of 2023 there were 13,998 gardaí in the service – more than 1,000 below the Government’s target of 15,000.

Supt Liam Geraghty, of the Garda Press Office, said the current recruitment drive was “quite strong” and they intended to carry out recruitment drives every year.

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