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.
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…