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Making a splash

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Laser Swimming Club’s Kevin Dowling, who is the new Swim Ireland President.

By STEPHEN GLENNON

With indoor pools closed due to the health risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, newly elected Swim Ireland President Kevin Dowling of Laser SC says the sport must “pivot” and invest its energies into outdoor activities for the foreseeable future.

Honoured to be appointed to the new position, which lasts a period of one year, the new Swim Ireland President acknowledges that swimming faces many challenges, none least enticing young people back into the indoor pools when it is safe to do so.

As with every other sport, he admits that there is a natural fall-off in athlete participation during the teenage years, but he says Swim Ireland is already looking at different ways to encourage the youth to return.

“There is a concern that 12 months out of activity will have an impact and that we will need to bring them back into the fold,” says Dowling. “The manner in which we aspire to do that would be by working on our competitive programmes, to have our events over shorter distances, and through our reward system.

“We are going to change our reward structure by introducing a very innovative reward band system that would develop swimmers in all of the strokes. We would hope by making changes like those it would act as an enticement (for the youth) to come back into the sport.”

For now, though, Swim Ireland must look to see where it can focus its energies in a meaningful fashion. In this respect, Dowling believes that the growth of open water swimming during the pandemic provides opportunities.

“So, while respecting the fact that there have been challenges associated with clubs continuing, and facilities trying to open in a safe environment, the fact is that we, in Galway, have already so much at our disposal.

“If you look at our shorelines – we have fantastic beaches along with the likes of the lake in Loughrea and so on – there are massive opportunities there to piggy-back on the experiences of last year when we saw people take that first dip into the ocean, and they have continued to do that.”

Dowling, who grew up in Waterford and spent his teenage years in Cork, lives in Oranmore, within five kilometres of Renville Pier. He says that he couldn’t get over how many people consistently swam there over the winter period. “It was just such a joy to see

swimmers out in the calm waters of Renville on a Sunday morning,” he says.

“That is the type of positivity we need to grow and we, as an organisation, must understand whatever happened last year to trigger that interest in outdoor swimming. We in Galway also need to capitalise on that and look towards developing those kind of infrastructures and opportunities for swimmers.”

He says that one would be to make Blackrock diving  board a focal point for teenagers while, another, would be the rejuvenation of the old sea baths at Ladies Beach. These tidal pools were in-filled in the 1980s but a campaign to have them reopened has been underway in recent months.

“There are examples in Dublin where they have opened up the Clontarf Baths. So, it is capitalising on the opportunity that arose in 2020 where we saw an increase in open water swimming and that this can be another means of (nurturing a) lifelong commitment to the water.”

Indeed, as with the majority of coaches, Dowling notes that swimming is a life skill – “cradle to grave” – more so than even a sport and the key role of Swim Ireland “is to get the country swimming”.

That is not an easy task in the current climate, especially given not all counties enjoy the natural amenities that Galway have. “So, there certainly are challenges, but, that said, I’m very enthusiastic and optimistic about the future.

“In Galway, at least, we can pivot by having more activity in the open air and, once our facilities are comfortable with reopening, we will get our other swimmers back in the water and develop the conveyor belt of good athletes that we have always had in Galway swimming over many years.”

Dowling, who moved to Galway with the Department of Defence (Aras an tSaile, Renmore) in 1989 and has been living in Oranmore since 1993, never set out to climb to the Swim Ireland summit. If anything, his journey has been more of a wander than a climb.

Having started out as an underage GAA coach, the father-of-three swapped over to swimming when his children developed an aptitude for it. “It was also slightly warmer to be indoor training,” he muses.

A member of Laser for over 15 years, he served as a swim teacher between 2008 and 2014, when flood damage at Leisureland suspended their swim programme. In addition, he played an active role in Laser SC receiving the national quality mark in 2012, when they also won Connacht Club of the Year, and in 2018.

His involvement does not stop there and in his time he has coached club, interprovincial and schools; served as team manager of club and regional squads that have competed at home and abroad; held numerous administration posts (he is the current Chairperson of the Connacht Competitions Committee); and worked with Special Olympics.

He still coaches at Fiona’s Swim School in Kilcornan, where he tutors children from six to 10 years, while he continues to coach Team South Galway Special Olympics team every Wednesday (when permitted under health guidelines).

“So, no, it was never an ambition (to become Swim Ireland President),” he says. “I never set out to be engaged at national level or anything like that. My local involvement is still where my passion is. I love going on a Tuesday evening or a Sunday morning with the ‘smallies’ or on a Wednesday evening with the Special Olympians. That is what floats my boat, really.”

Next week, though, Dowling will on duty when presiding over the National Swim Meet at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin. The event includes the Irish Time Trials for athletes aiming to secure their elusive times for the Tokyo Olympics.

“The Government, Sport Ireland and Swim Ireland have worked hard on this. It is very confined and clinical and under the proper protocols of NPHET and Government. That said, I love the idea of being able to go up there next week and contribute to the event and operate as a stroke judge-turn judge to the swimmers who are togging out.”

He notes that there are a number of competitors with Galway connections involved, including Andrew Moore, Oisín Cooke and Molly Mayne. “So, I am encouraged to see a number of swimmers from County Galway that have swam at local events in the last 10 years performing at high standards at the national time trials next week.

“That is a good message: that a guy or girl who comes up through the Galway ranks, but who might have moved onto UCD or wherever, is still competing. That is good to see,” concludes Dowling, who is the 13th Galway representative to hold the Swim Ireland Presidency and the first since his club-mate Tony Farrell in 2012.

Connacht Tribune

Tuam men put late gloss on a hard earned win in Clonbur

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Tuam Stars' Cormac McWalter whose haul of 1-2 was vital in their Senior Football Championship win over Naomh Anna Leitir Móir in Clonbur on Saturday.

Tuam Stars 2-14

 Naomh Anna Leitir Móir 0-12 

Mike Rafferty in Clonbur

The outcome of this senior football championship contest in Clonbur looks decisive, but reality tells a different story as it was only in the latter stages that Tuam Stars pulled away to win with a shade of comfort.

For the majority of the opening half, it was the Connemara side who were the real drivers of the game, but despite that they still found themselves two points in arrears at the break. A Cormac McWalter goal on 29 minutes was to change the course of proceedings and, in reality, put Tuam in the driving seat for the rest of the match.

For a side that dominated the second half,  it was only in the closing quarter that Tuam Stars pulled away as a 1-5 tally without reply in a seven-minute spell turned what had been a close contest into a comfortable victory by the end. However, once they went ahead, the Stars stuck to their task and never gave Leitir Móir an opportunity to get back into it.

The performance of Naomh Anna saw contrasting productions. An impressve opening half when they were full of running and support play turned in the opposite direction on the resumption. It was almost as if they did not believe in themselves.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Galway historian’s 14 new books bring running total to 70!

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Steve Dolan.

There may be a book in everyone – but producing 18 of them for publication in one week is taking it to a different level. And yet that’s what Galway historian Steve Dolan has done for Heritage Week. . . adding 18 books this year to bring him up to 70 over the last seven years – and he’s firmly committed to hitting one hundred.

By day – and given the workload, increasingly by night – he is the chief executive of Galway Rural Development (GRD), but the Carrabane resident has had a lifelong passion for history. And that’s what he turns to as a form of relaxation which peaks at this time every year.

Not alone that; he already has the first five of next year’s publications completed – and he’s only starting!

This year’s booklets are all on the theme of Gaelic Games and every one of them is in aid of a different community group or charity. Theoretically, they are limited editions, but – given his own love of the subject matter – he won’t see anyone who shares that passion miss out.

While all eighteen new publications share that GAA theme, the diversity of subject matter within that is breath-taking – and an incredible achievement in terms of the workload and production.

From the story of the county title that Liam Mellows were robbed of in 1942 to the contribution of An Cath Gaedhealach to Galway GAA in 1947/48 or Galway’s 1923 and 1925 All-Ireland victories to sport in County Galway during the revolutionary years; the books are as much about social history as about sport.

See the full list of publications in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

And if they are of interest to you, you can contact Steve at sdolan@grd.ie to buy them.

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Connacht Tribune

Scenic farmland for sale in Joyce Country

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Stunning vista: the farmhouse (bottom left of photo) for sale in Knockaunban Valley.

An outstanding residential hill farm in the renowned Maam Valley – better known as Joyce Country – a stunning and scenic hill farming area between Leenane and Maam.

Located in the Knockaunbaun Valley, which is a part of the Maum Turk mountain range, the farm extends to 114.04 hectares (281.79 acres) and is held in three large sections with other smaller sections along Bealnabrack River which flows into Lough Corrib nearby.

It provides excellent hill grazing on which a small herd of cattle and a large flock of sheep were farmed for many years. The land on both sides of a country lane is well fenced in the valley while a large section of hill on the Maum Turks being unfenced.

The dwelling house is nestled in a grove of pine trees is an 1930s cottage which consists of an entrance hall, living area, kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom. The roof and windows of the property were upgraded several years ago. However, the dwelling is in need of full refurbishment.

It has a private water source, mains electricity and a telephone connection. To the rear of the house there are a selection of traditional farm sheds with a storage shed to the front of the dwelling.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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