A Clare swimmer scaled the heights at the Irish National Team trials by recording his first individual senior record.
Dominating the 400 metre Freestyle Final in an impressive performance, Finn McGeever finished on 3.52.83 in the Irish National Swimming Championship, which smashed Northern Ireland’s Jack McMillian’s 2019 record of 3.53.31
In fact, the Ballina swimmer achieved success on the double with his second place finish in the semi-final and third place in the final of the 200 metre freestyle, placing him in a strong position to secure a coveted place on the Irish 4×200 metre relay team for the next Olympics Games.
Interestingly, the main focus of Finn’s ambitions wasn’t the 400 metre freestyle but the 200 metre freestyle in his efforts to win one of the hotly-contested spots on the Irish men’s 4×200 metre relay team.
The members and substitutes of the Irish men’s 4×200 metre relay team was due to be officially announced on Wednesday.
Selection is based on overall times achieved at the Irish National Team trials. Finn finished in 1.48.16 in the 200 metre freestyle and while he came third in the final, his main rivals didn’t go faster than what he had achieved in the semi-final so he ended up being second in the overall placings.
Before the 400 metre freestyle final, Finn’s coach predicted he could break the Irish record on the day.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, Finn said the current 200 metre relay team is the best Ireland has ever produced.
“Ireland might have previously had one swimmer hitting 1.47 and the rest close to 1.50 but now we have lots of swimmers that are below 1.50. These are exciting times for Irish swimming.
“As a consequence of training for the 200 freestyle my 400 freestyle got better. I was fitter and feeling fast and I knew I was in a good place and achieving 1.48.16 in the 200 metre freestyle before the 400 metre freestyle.
“I was nervous before the 400 metre freestyle as I knew I was due a personal best. My previous personal best was three years earlier and I knew I was swimming faster than that.
“The 400 metre freestyle wasn’t my main goal. It was a surprise and happened very quickly. In my head I consider the 1.48.16 in the 200 metre freestyle to be a bigger achievement because it was my main event. There is a lot of competition for the four by 200 metre freestyle relay team.
“I was pumped up after setting a new Irish individual record and I was really happy with it, but it was a bonus after the 200 metre freestyle.
“It was a reward for all the time I spent in the water training.”
University of Limerick National Centre head coach, John Szaranek, assistant coach, Mikey McCarty, strength and conditioning coach, Lorna Barry, physiotherapist, Kathryn Fahy and nutritionist, Karen O’Sullivan attended the National Swimming Championships in Dublin.
Unlike some athletes, the Covid-19 lockdown has actually worked well for Lough Derg’s elite swimmer.
With all night clubs and pubs still closed, there is no where to socialise, and the pool in the University of Limerick National Centre is not being used by the public, leaving a lot more time for high performance swimmers to train when they want.
Pre-Covid, Finn used to get up at 5.30 to be in the centre at 6am for a two-hour training session. Now, he can get a bit of a lie in as the training session starts at 7am.
“Over the last three years, we have adhered to the same training programme and this year it is working really well for me. I have nine two-hour training sessions and two or three gym sessions.
All his coaches contribute to the production of an individual tailored programme on a spreadsheet that is constantly monitored and amended to ensure he is not being over trained and can be examined if he picks up an injury to establish if his training was too strenuous over a particular period.
Lactate tests are taken and analysed on a regular basis and they are used to devise very individual programmes for training and rest during sessions.
On May 17, the selected Irish four by 200 metre freestyle team will compete in the European championships with the aim of qualifying in the top 16 in the world to secure a place in the Olympics.
This is also very highly competitive with only a second or two in the difference between 12 and 18 place in the world.
Last October, the 20 year-old was named as one of 13 swimmers in the Performance Transition Cohort, which features Ireland’s strongest performers at junior level over recent years, and he was also selected on the 38-strong Swim Ireland National Squad 2020-21.
Finn, who is a Second Year student at University of Limerick (UL) is the youngest son of Roisín and Charlie and a past pupil of Ballina NS and St Anne’s Community College.
Under Covid-19 restrictions, Finn couldn’t have a shower in the centre after the swimming championships and had to have one in his hotel.
Growing up just a stone’s throw from Lough Derg, Finn recalls completing swimming lessons at the age of six or seven and enjoyed jumping into the water from the pier at Pier Head, Killaloe or Ballycuggeran, Ogonnelloe with his brothers.
His parents taught him how to swim and his father, Charlie used to bring him to the swimming pool in the Lakeside Hotel two or three times a week.
“We were always looking for water going on holidays. It was the main activity we did during the summer. We base all our activities on the water,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Killaloe’s Jonathan McGrath achieved a season’s best time at the Irish National Team Trials in the 400 Freestyle.
He was hoping to have achieved a qualifying time for Tokyo but, unfortunately, he finished outside the qualifying standard. However, Jonathan has another chance of achieving qualification when he will represent Ireland at the European Paralympic championships in Madeira in May so, hopefully he will secure the qualifying time at that event.
Jonathan trains daily at Limerick’s High Performance Centre, leaving home at 5am and returning again in the afternoon for another session of swimming and gym work. He works on a part-time basis at Thinking Toys in Killaloe where he receives massive support from proprietors, Mick and Áine Conacur.
He is also taking further degree studies (evenings and weekends) at UCC.
Jonathan, who represented Ireland in London 2012, swims under the expert guidance of coaches John Szaranek and Mickey McCarthy whose support and expertise is invaluable in assisting him to achieve his dream.
By Dan Danaher