THE Irish Minor Schools Finals took place at the National Aquatic Centre, Dublin recently.
The event is the highlight of the Primary Schools swimming calendar and places young athletes from ‘rival’ clubs together to swim for the school team.
Individual athletes relish the opportunity to represent their school on the National stage.
The event is always very well supported with mums, dads and grandparents turning up in large numbers to cheer on the young stars of the future.
Swimmers had to qualify from their respective regional finals and are limited to two events.
Orna Higgins (10) St. Joseph’s NS Glanmire was back to defend her National Title at 50m butterfly.
This she did in style, posting a 2.69 second PB in her heat swim.
She was well clear of the field and progressed to the final as the strong favourite.
She matched her prelim time in the final 36.92 and retained her title for the second successive year.
She was joined on the podium by Margaret Verling (10) Gaelscoil de Haoide, Fermoy, also with a PB 40.80 for third.
Aislinn Healy (10), Enniskerry split the Cork girls to claim silver with 39.73.
Higgins won silver in 2019 at 50m freestyle but opted to swim 50m backstroke on his occasion.
She was rewarded for her decision. An excellent prelim swim 37.46 saw her to progress to the final, again as the strong favourite, three seconds ahead of her nearest rival.
She further improved in the final to bring her time down to 36.93 and claim a second National Title.
Little separated the boys in the prelims at 12 yrs 50m backstroke, with the top three through to the final all posting times sub 35 seconds.
Zach Daniels-Howard (12) Scoil Bhríde Rathcormac qualified as top seed 34.40 Darragh Horgan 34.48 and Cormac Farren 34.71.
The three boys served up a nail-biting final, but it was Daniels-Howard who was the more determined and hungrier.
He held off the chasing pair to touch on 33.96 ahead of Horgan on 34.10 and Farren on 34.18.
The win was especially sweet for Daniels-Howard after missing out on the National Title in 2019 by just 0.29 seconds.
Zach closed out his final appearance at the Minor Schools with an 8th place finish at 100m IM.
The boys from St. Anthony’s have a strong tradition at the Minor schools, particularly at the relay events.
The school qualified for both relay finals and were top seed for the 200m freestyle.
Defending their 2019 title, there was a change of personnel with Pierce Hanley replacing Colman Shanley.
David O’Leary, Sean Semchiy and Thomas Bugler retained their places on the team.
All four had strong swims and were comfortable winners 2:09.63.
There was a battle royale for the remaining places behind them with 0.59 seconds separating the next three teams.
St. Pius X 2:14.21, St Patrick’s Academy 2:14.25 and Methodist College losing out with 2:14.80.
St. Patrick’s Academy proved too strong at the freestyle relay posting 2:28.86 ahead of the quartet from St. Anthony’s 2:30.77 for second place.
On an individual basis, David O’Leary (12) won bronze at 50m freestyle 30.63.
Sean Semchiy (11) had to settle for 4th overall at 50m freestyle despite posting a PB 32.35.
Thomas Bugler (11) qualified for two individual finals. He placed 6th at 100m IM and 8th at 50m breaststroke.
11 year old Luke Merrigan, Realt na Meara, Kenmare was another in excellent form.
He was the comfortable winner at 100m IM 1:16.97 ahead of Cameron Jackson, Castleknock 1:18.85.
James McIlroy, St. Coleman’s Cloyne narrowly missed out on bronze in that final 1:23.06.
Merrigan doubled up on National Titles with victory at 50m breaststroke 41.03.