Things going swimmingly for Ireland, as coach RUDD leads 'big shift' in Dublin
GLASGOW - In the week when their women’s hockey team were feted in Dublin after returning from a hugely successful World Cup campaign, Ireland’s swimmers have also been making progress, and headlines, at the European Championships at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre.
Shane RYAN won a bronze medal in the 50m backstroke, Conor FERGUSON was ranked ninth in two backstroke events in his first senior competition, and Darragh GREENE became the first Irish swimmer to break one minute in the 100m breaststroke. Perhaps most significantly, after Mona McSHARRY's effort in the 50m breastsroke heats on Wednesday morning the team of 11 has already qualified for more semifinal swims than Ireland have ever enjoyed before at the European Championships.
Other nations are taking note, and as if to make the point world record holder Adam PEATY (GBR) stopped to congratulate GREENE with a pat on the back as the Irishman spoke to the media after another good performance in the 50m breaststroke heats.
The improvement is largely the work of Jon RUDD, the Briton who became Ireland's national performance director in November 2016. He has built a formidable team of coaches, laid down plans for the future and, he says, has helped to make make Dublin "one of the best coaching centres in the world now".
"There has been a big shift in Ireland," said GREENE. "We used to be there just to make up the numbers and not get a second swim, but now we're getting second swims and doing personal bests on the day. We're put to the test and we’re standing up to it.
"There's a lot more media coverage. We're making headlines from our performance levels, we're getting into finals or getting ninth and just missing them, we won a medal for Shane RYAN – that was unheard of in recent years."
RYAN, who was raised in the United States by Irish parents, said the improvement was mainly down to the confidence instilled by RUDD and his team.
"The coaching staff and performance director are putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and we're all really bonding as a team too.
"They're bringing in a new level of expertise and we're capitalising on it. It's absolutely great."
CNS content is available free of charge to all media. No copyright restrictions apply.