Reflections on the PEPAYS Ireland Forum, 2022 – dr brendan o’keeffe.

On Saturday last, June 11th, the Physical Education Physical Activity and Youth Sport (PEPAYS) Ireland Forum took place in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at UL. This was the first Forum since 2018, and the energy and chat among attendees at the morning reception set the tone for what would prove to be a very enjoyable day.

As much as anything else the day was for the PEPAYS community, some familiar faces and new, to (re)connect after a difficult couple of years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the single biggest challenge was attempting to get attendees to stop chatting and move on for each element of the forum –Ursula Freyne’s exceptional catering skills must take some of the blame for this!

Dr Karen Weekes keynote was many attendees highlight of the day. Attendees were gripped by Karen’s presentation, recounting the highs and lows of becoming the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic, over 3000 miles after 80 days at sea. I think it fair to say attendees would have been quite happy to listen to Karen, in her unique nonchalant style, speak for the entire day! We encourage you to check out her work at

Following the keynote, two contrasting but equally thought-provoking key thematic presentations on the themes of ‘Social justice’ (Dr Jennifer Walton-Fisette and Carla Luguetti) and ‘Physical Activity Policy’ (Prof Catherine Woods and Kevin Volf) were delivered. The research through practice workshops represented a new departure for the Forum and were very well received. Grace Cardiff, Dr Richard Bowles, Dr Maura Coulter and Dr Tony Sweeney provided a comprehensive overview on meaningful engagement in self-study. Dr Phil Kearney delivered a collaborative workshop focusing on identifying research priorities for youth sport in Ireland. Meanwhile, Prof Ann MacPhail hosted a space for colleagues to walk, talk and reconnect.

On either side lunch, 28 oral research presentations were delivered and 12 research posters showcased. The diverse range of research across physical education, physical activity and youth sport left attendees with a difficult decision on which sessions to attend. The quality of both the oral research presentations and research posters, particularly among undergraduate and postgraduate attendees, was noted by several attendees.

The final part of the day was a stimulating three-way key stakeholder panel discussion between John Fulham (Paralympics Ireland), Declan O’Leary (Sport Ireland) and Prof Catherine Woods (Chair of Physical Activity for Health, UL). The theme of the discussion, building on the Forum title, was ‘Grand challenges and opportunities for research and practice in Physical Education, Physical Activity and Youth Sport’. The day concluded with PEPAYS Ireland Research Centre Director, Prof Ann MacPhail, presenting prizes for the overall best oral research presentation to Frank Devereux (DCU) and research poster to Rhoda Sohun (UL).

The last person to leave the PESS building on Saturday evening was Brigitte Moody (lecturer on the PE programme in UL), ensuring the building was left “with no trace”. There is a saying Brazilian football that “some people carry the piano so the others can play”, Brigitte epitomises this.  

A sincere thank you once again to all the Organising Committee and Scientific Committee members listed below. Most of all, on behalf of the PEPAYS Ireland Forum Organising Committee, we want to thank all attendees sincerely for your participation at the event. We are already looking forward to the PEPAYS Ireland Forum in 2023.

Re-live some of the highlights of the day on the PEPAYS Ireland Twitter page –

Le meas,

Brendan O’Keeffe

On behalf of the PEPAYS Ireland Forum Organising Committee.

Contact:  Follow on twitter: @BrendanOK_; @PEPAYS_IrelandResearchgate, ORCID

Brendan OK

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