ILDSA Awards and HoF-MSI Inductions

This Sunday, 11th March 2018, will be an important day in the Irish open water swimming calendar, a day to acknowledge the achievements of swimmers and contributors during the 2017 season as well as to honour the lifetime achievements of members of the Irish open water swimming community. We will mark these at the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association‘s (ILDSA) Annual Awards and the inaugural induction ceremony of the Hall of Fame – Marathon Swimming Ireland (HoF-MSI), which will be held at the Waterside House Hotel near Donabate in Fingal (North County Dublin), a fitting location on the edge of the Irish sea and looking out at Lambay Island.

After lunch in the Lambay Suite, the awards and induction ceremonies will get underway. To get things started, there will be a welcome address by the Deputy Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Adrian Henchy (FF), after which I will take over as master of ceremonies for the rest of the afternoon. The fact that I’ve been trusted with this duty surely means that I didn’t do too bad a job when I hosted the awards in 2012!

First will be the presentation of medals to all swimmers born or resident on the island of Ireland who successfully completed English Channel crossings in 2017. Carol Finlay, Participation Officer of Swim Ireland, and Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland, will present the medals for solo and relay swims, respectively. Medals will then be presented to all swimmers who successfully completed North Channel Swims in 2017, with medals for solo swims being presented by Billy Wallace, President of the ILDSA, and medals for relay swims being presented by Cllr Henchy and Eoin Gaffney of Leinster Open Sea.

Following the presentation of the English Channel and North Channel medals, we will move on to the presentation of the ILDSA Awards for the 2017 season, which will be presented by Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland. The following is a list of the awards that will be presented:

Between the various medal and award presentations, four speakers will offer us unique insights into different challenges in our sport. Wes Nolan, Ion Lazarenco and Ned Denison will offer us a swimmer’s perspective, while veteran North Channel pilot Brian Meharg MBE will give us a pilot’s slant on things.

The final part of the proceedings will be a very special event: the inaugural induction ceremony of the HoF-MSI. The Class of 2018 will be inducted by Billy Wallace and Ned Denison, who are both Honorees of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Classes of 1999 and 2012, respectively). The Honour Swimmers and Contributors that will be inducted are:

Just in case that wasn’t enough silverware for everybody, there will be one final presentation. The afternoon’s ceremonies will close with the presentation of a “Special Award”, about which I know precisely naught, so I am sure that we will all be eager to find out whom its recipient will be and wherefore…

Notes:

  1. Places for the lunch and awards can be booked here.
  2. For those traveling by public transport, there will be a shuttle bus service from Dublin City Centre to the venue and back again.
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Race Review: Great Wicklow 10 km Swim

Photograph – Dymphna Morris

Some of the swimmers getting ready for the start in Greystones… (Photograph: Dymphna Morris)

This year has seen many new additions to the Irish open water swimming calendar. Among these new swims was the Great Wicklow 10 km Swim | Snámh Mhór Chill Mhantáin, which took place on Sunday, 22 September. This was a tide assisted swim between the towns of Bray and Greystones on Ireland’s east coast. Ger Kennedy and the rest of the team did a fantastic job with the organisation of this event and are continuing to think big about expanding the event for next year and also running other events in Dublin and the surrounding area. I look forward to taking part in one or more of these events myself!

Conditions on the day were best described as “mixed”. It was a warm, sunny, dry day on the east coast and we had a favourable tide assisting us in our point-to-point swim from Bray south to Greystones. However, there was a stiff southeasterly breeze which was about the worst direction that it could be coming from! Times were still faster than a 10 km in still water, though – I finished in 2 hours 18 minutes. I don’t think that I swam particularly well in this race but I did win the male non-wetsuit category so was happy enough. It was a fun day out, in any case, especially with four Cork swimmers – Carol Cashell, Eoin O’Riordan, Liz Buckley and myself – taking part. Carol did a very good write-up on the swim so I’ll just direct you to that (link below) instead of writing my own…

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All-Ireland Long Distance Swimming Party

Last Saturday night, the Grand Hotel on the banks of the Blackwater played host to the first All-Ireland Long Distance Swimming Party. Swimmers and administrators from both Sandycove Island SC and the ILDSA as well as “independents” assembled for what was a very successful evening…

As the crowd of over 100 guests gathered, the dining room was already adorned with fascinating swim charts from all over the world, including the English Channel, North Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Körös River (Hungary), Cook Strait, Catalina Channel and Lake Zurich, and photographs from some of the highlights of the last 50 years of Irish long distance swimming. While guests were seated and waiting for their food, North Channel pilot Brian Meharg MBE gave a very interesting and humorous presentation on the life of an historic figure in marathon swimming, Mercedes Gleitze.

After dinner, Ned Denison began his annual 10+ km announcements by calling us to remember Páraic Casey and Owen Hughes and let them know that we missed them. He went on to welcome distinguished guests including radio presenter Marcus Connaughton of RTÉ Radio 1’s maritime programme “Seascapes”, long distance swimming pioneer Kieran Fitzgerald and renowned swimming administrator Martin Cullen, among others. Ned then introduced all three of Ireland’s Triple Crown swimmers (Eddie Irwin, Gábor Molnár and himself) and all of those who had done 10+ km swims this year – there were too many for me to mention here!

Before finishing, Ned presented the ILDSA with their certificate from IMSHOF, where they were indicted in absentia this year. Billy Wallace, President of the ILDSA, accepted the certificate from Ned and gave a very fine speech in which he paid tribute to all of the swimmers and everyone else involved in the sport who had helped make 2012 the spectacular year that it was for Irish open water swimming.

Ice swimmer Nuala Moore of Dingle, Co. Kerry then took aver and introduced all of the winners and runners up of the ILDSA Awards 2012. They were as follows:

  • Special Achievement: Stephen Redmond (Cork) for his historic success in becoming the first person to complete the Oceans Seven challenge.
  • Female Swimmer of the Year: Fionnuala Walsh (Clare) for her courage in determination returning to Dover to complete her English Channel solo swim, her original attempt having been abandoned just 200 m from France in thick fog.
  • Male Swimmer of the Year: Tom Healy (Dublin) for his outstanding performance in completing his English Channel solo swim in a time of 9 hours 51 minutes, breaking the previous Irish record of 10 hours 19 minutes.
  • Juvenile Swimmer of the Year: Ellen Brooks (Cork) for her consistent performances in the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim, the “Edge Sports” Sandycove Island Challenge and the Sherkin Island to Baltimore Swim.
  • Juvenile Performance of the Year: Conor Turner (Dublin) for his amazing swim of 59 minutes 15 seconds in the 5 km Camlough race.
  • Leinster Swimmer of the Year: Paul Manning (Dublin)
  • Margaret Smith Award: Owen O’Keefe (Cork)
  • Best Event: 10 km Camlough (Armagh) & 10 km Lough Gill (Sligo)
  • Best Senior Newcomer: Ger Kennedy (Wicklow)
  • Best Junior Newcomer: Jon Glover (Down)
  • Spirit of Swimming Award: Myles McCourt (Down)

Adrian McGreevy of Amphibia kindly donated donated two of his famous sports bags for the ILDSA to present to anyone they wished. The first went to Ned Denison in recognition of his outstanding contribution to open water swimming. Ned’s has an infectious enthusiasm for our sport and, without him, we would not be where we are today. Thanks you, Ned! The second went to Chris Bryan of Ennis, Co. Clare who has represented Ireland all over the world on the professional open water circuit. He came 8th in the World Championships in Shanghai, just 11 seconds behind the winner, Olympic silver medalist Thomas Lurz of Germany, and he missed out on a place at London 2012 by just 0.01 seconds and a dubious political decision on the part of FINA. We are sure to see more amazing performances from Chris and wish him the very best of luck in qualifying for Rio 2016, we know he will do us proud!

Finally, the very impressive personalised ILDSA English Channel medals were presented to all of those present who had completed English Channel solo and relay swims this year.

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On a personal note, I would like to thanks Ned Denison, Stephen Millar and Nuala Moore who helped me enormously in making the night a success. Everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves immensely and we are all looking forward to this becoming an annual event, rotating around the island of Ireland…

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The who’s who of Irish open water swimming to gather in Fermoy tomorrow night…

For the last number of years, Ned Denison has hosted an annual party at his home to honour Irish swimmers who had completed big swims such as the English Channel, North Channel and Strait of Gibraltar (and many others). Both swimmers and crews were invited and the night was always a great success. Separately, the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) has held its annual awards at which swimmers and race organisers from both the Republic and Northern Ireland were honoured for their achievements. By the way, both Ned and the ILDSA were this year inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!

This year, for the first time, these two functions will be held jointly. It’s a great honour for me that the my home town of Fermoy was chosen as the venue! The mass celebration of an amazing year in Irish open water swimming will kick off at 18:30 in the Grand Hotel on the banks of the Blackwater River with a presentation on the history of North Channel swimming by seasoned North Channel pilot and chronicler Brian Meharg of Bangor Boat, Bangor, Co. Down. There will then be a meal and the awards will follow…

It promises to be a great night and hopefully I will have a few photographs and a quick run down of the various awards on the blog at some stage next week!