DOLPHIN Swimming Club, founded in 1901, is one of Ireland’s oldest swimming clubs.
Historically, the club has always been strong at swimming, with water polo and diving a pivotal part of the programme in its early years. It remained a men’s only club until 1934 when the first women were permitted to join. Later years saw the introduction of lifesaving and teaching of swimming to children.
Dolphin have been active in all the major Cork pools down through the years, initially at Eglinton Street indoor baths.
The Lee baths and the famous riverside 50m outdoor facility, where the club was active until 1976 and 1985, respectively. With the provision of new indoor facilities in Cork in the 1970s at Churchfield, Douglas and Mayfield the club relocated its activities to those pools and now calls Mayfield Sports Complex its home, with Leisure World Churchfield also in weekly use.
Today, the club is active for over 40 hours per week in the water, with an additional 10 hours per week in the gym.
There are 10 squads in all, seven of which train to compete.
Dolphin runs a successful learn to swim programme that conducts three classes each weekend from September to June and, in most cases, feeds the participants into the competitive squads. Long-serving member, Brenda O’Dowling, has been at the helm in the learn to swim for many years and has just announced her retirement form her role. She leaves behind a sturdy LTS programme but ‘large shoes’ to fill.
The club depends largely on volunteerism for the day-to-day running of its activities, with a fully qualified coaching teaching team, qualified officials, and a dedicated team of admin volunteers who work tirelessly all year to keep the club performing optimally.
The club has always been continually active in the administration of the sport at local and national level. Pat Donovan is a long-serving member and ex-coach. She is currently the National Competitions Recorder.
She is also a past President of Swim Ireland (SI), one of five club officials to hold the illustrious position. Current club President, Eddie Campion and the late Billy O’Brien, Declan Desmond and Donal Barry RIP also served as SI Presidents.
Another stalwart at the club, Helen Desmond has a vast range of experience. Helen was an active committee member, serving for a term as Secretary and is a long serving volunteer with the LTS programme.
She is also a highly regarded SI National Referee and the recipient of the inaugural SI Official of the Year Award 2019. In addition, she is a Level 2 Team Manager and has travelled with regional and national teams.
Many of the club’s members are generational offspring of past Dolphin stalwarts. Former Head Coach and now Club President, Eddie Campion is still present each week at various training sessions while his grandchildren are now members of the competitive squads. Eddie was inducted into the SI Hall of Fame at the annual awards ceremony in 2017.
Dolphin won the ‘Best Club in Munster’ accolade in the same year. Eddie’s wife, Rita, another Irish swimming stalwart was the longest continuous serving members of the club, but sadly passed away recently. The club wishes to offer their condolences to Eddie and all his family, at this time.
Rita Campion was one of Cork’s best-known swimming teachers for many years and the family tradition continues today with their daughter, Eileen Hempel, now a Swim Ireland tutor.
The club is extremely proud of its representation at regional, national, and international levels. The club has grown exponentially in recent times. Club members Emma Moloney and Ellen Cassidy represented Ireland at the European Youth Olympics (2015) and European Junior Championships (2018) respectively, with both representing Ireland at International Schools level. Tara Desmond, now a coach, is another former national squad athlete. Liam Doyle now trains at the Performance Centre in UL, represented Ireland at the European Short Course Championships in Glasgow in December 2019.
The swimming programme is led by Head Coach, Mick McCormack, a SI Level 3 coach and PE teacher, while the management of the committee is led by club Chairman, Dr Giuseppe Whelan. McCormack is prominent at Munster level and is also a member of the National Performance Advisory Group in Swim Ireland. He has also represented Munster as coach at international competitions in Scotland and Slovenia in recent years.
The clubs progress was evident at last season’s Irish Summer Nationals at the NAC, where the club secured an individual medal haul of 15 gold, eight silver and six bronze, as well as a silver in the girls 4 x 100 medley relay. They finished the meet as the second highest ranked club in the country, behind Ards Swimming Club from Belfast.
It was also the most successful meet in the club’s illustrious history to date. Hannah O’Shea emerged as the best overall athlete at that meet while Neddie Irwin and Jack Cassin (Singapore based) placed first and second men respectively.
Away from the pool club members enjoy success on the open water circuit. Neddie Irwin won the Lee Swim in 2019, with Niklas Leahy placed second. Irwin will have to wait until 2021 to defend his title.
With uncertainty surrounding any upcoming competitions at this point due to Covid-19, the swimmers are back in the water training on the river Lee and at beaches, with hopes of a swift return to the pool, now that the restrictions have been lifted. Zoom workouts were the focus for all squads while out of the water and swimmers showed great resilience and dedication during that time.
Coincidentally, the last swimming competition to take place in Munster before the lockdown was the annual Dolphin Open in Mayfield where the home club emerged victorious.
The last swim competition to take place in Munster before the lockdown was the Dolphin Open in Mayfield