Write-up by Mary Horgan
I grew up in Cork and attended UCC, before the local marathon swimming craze. I caught the long distance open water bug while living in Dublin and swimming with Glenalbyn Masters. My circle of friends introduced me to the sea swimming races in & around Dublin. Over time I graduated to the 5k swim across Dublin Bay.
My first proper marathon swim outside of Dublin came with my first ever visit to Mayo. This trip introduced me to a stunning part of the country which continues to draw me and the 10k swims in Clew Bay. I completed this in 1999, 2000 and 2003. The swim started from boats, passed many islands with a good tidal push and ended at Newport Pier. Part of the attraction was being part of a group of fewer than 20 swimmers who all enjoyed the swim and social event afterwards. I remember a beautiful placid seal accompanying us the last few hundred metres in to shore one year! I always swam with my good friend, Marie Louise for all these swims as our pace matched each other perfectly. A fantastic bar-b-q was always organized the evening of the swim and the sun inevitably always shone for it. Clew Bay remains one of my favourite sporting memories, much more so because of the comardaerie.
In those years the other long Irish swims were Lough Erne and Inisbofin. I also completed the former but unfortunately the year we were due to swim Inisbofin the conditions were against us and we ended up doing lap after lap in/around the harbour which was a disappointment but couldn’t be helped. A mini triathlon was organised by Martin Cullen for the following day. I somehow managed to find a bike and we had great craic doing that. Swimmers were mostly from the Dublin clubs and Northern Ireland (ILDSA) plus the occasional British visitor.
Personally the English Channel never held any appeal. I remember after Lough Erne wondering if I had done damage to my arm long term as I couldn’t even lift the milk jug the following morning for my cereal! I knew I wouldn’t be interested in anything at all longer. Placing all ones eggs in a single basket also is not something I enjoy. As I got into triathlon shortly afterwards I found the two not so compatible. Losing even the smallest bit of body fat makes swimming in cold water over a longish period so much harder.
I returned to Cork about five years into the open water marathon craze. The Cork gang were really welcoming and I continued to regularly swim around Sandycove etc. The highlight each year now is the Lee Swim for the absolutely brilliant atmosphere and a chance to catch up with so many old friends. Huge thanks to all who put an incredible amount of work into that swim and the entire sea swimming calendar throughout the year in Cork.