Four Longford swimmers recently made the long journey to Lisburn, Co. Antrim where close to 300 of the country’s top swimmers gathered for the prestigious National Short Course Swimming Championships. Rubbing shoulders with Olympians such as Barry Murphy, Aisling Cooney and Sycerika McMahon, this was a memorable occasion for the Longford swimmers who refused to be overawed by the occasion.
15-year old Patrick Flanagan, a well-recognised face in Irish swimming circles following his Swim Ireland Award earlier this year, competed in four events at the meet. His performances in the 100m backstroke and three freestyle events (50m, 100m and 400m) showed him to be at the peak of his form. Patrick delivered personal best performances in all four events underlining his ranking as one of the top swimmers in his division in the country.
For 12-year old Connacht Development squad swimmer Sinead McWeeney, this was her first experience of National Senior competition. In addition to recording her fastest-ever time for 100m freestyle in a 25m pool, she set impressive personal best times in the 50m and 100m backstroke (1 minute 12.87 seconds), both events eventually being won by the experienced UCD swimmer Aisling Cooney.
Longford Town swimmer Gerry Quinn, recently selected on the Irish Schools Swimming Team, also competed in three events in this competition, recording lifetime best times in each of these events. Although swimming a hugely impressive 54.29 seconds for the 100m freestyle and an equally impressive 1 minute 57.83 seconds for the 200m freestyle, Gerry saved his best performance for the 200m Individual Medley event. Swimming two lengths of the pool in each of the four strokes, Gerry qualified for the Senior final in 5th place overall in a time of 2 minutes and 9.49 seconds - an incredible 30 seconds faster than his time for this event less than two years ago. Although unable to repeat this performance in the final, Gerry finished 8th in the country at Senior level in this event, at just 14 years of age.
Ciara McNevin, a Transition Year student at Scoil Mhuire in Longford Town, was undoubtedly Longford’s busiest swimmer at the gala. She swam a draining 12 competitive races over the three days of the meet. Recently returned from representing the Irish Schools Swim Team at the WISE Gala in Sunderland, UK, Ciara showed some of her best form at this gala. Being the leading freestyle sprint swimmer at schools galas for many years, Ciara once again delivered when the pressure was on. She recorded lifetime best swims in all three freestyle events, posting times of 28.00 seconds for 50m, 2 minutes 7.97 seconds for 200m and stopping the clock at below the magical one minute mark at 59.69 seconds for 100m freestyle and reaching the ‘B’ finals in all three events. Even more impressive were her performances in the demanding Individual Medley events where she again posted personal bests in both the 100m and 200m events, finishing 7th and 8th respectively in the ‘A’ Finals of both events at Senior level. The 200m event was won by London 2012 Olympian Sycerika McMahon, one of the 8 titles won by the Leander swimmer on her way to picking up the Swimmer of the Meet award.
Overall, this was a very impressive performance from the Longford swimmers and is testament to the commitment and dedication of the swimmers themselves and the coaching staff at the club. Next weekend sees the final gala of the calendar year, the Connacht Short Course Championships being held in Galway. Longford Swimming Club is sending a 17-strong team to compete in this event and hopes are high that further success will be enjoyed by the swimmers at the Leisureland two-day meet.