THE Munster Future Challenge Meet was held at the University of Limerick recently.
The gala was geared toward very young children, offering a first opportunity to experience a competitive environment: 10-year-olds could swim up to 4x50m events, while the 11- and 12-year-olds could swim a mix of 50m, 100m & 200m events.
In addition, the meet was reclassified as a Level 3 Licence and therefore offered the more experienced swimmers an opportunity to qualify for Irish Age Groups Division 2, which will be held in UL in July.
After a two-year period that saw all pools closed, leaving these young swimmers with no opportunity to train, it was heart-warming to witness them relish the opportunity to race and compete at their first competitive gala.
Daire O’Neill, Clonakilty opened the Cork account with a third-place finish in the 11-year-old 200m IM, 3:42.51. O’Neill had 2nd place finishes at both 100m freestyle 1:26.90 and 50m breaststroke, 57.78. He was joined by Fionan Murphy, Mallow in 2nd at 100m freestyle, 1:27.40 with James Burke, Sunday's Well in 7th place. Eoghan Looney, Dolphin placed 3rd at 50m breaststroke 58.45 with clubmate Kevin Murphy in 5th and Burke placed 9th overall.
The team from Dolphin were particularly strong in the 10-year-old category. Seb Dunne and Luke Herlihy claimed the top two spots at 50m butterfly 59.06 and 1:01.95. The boys placed 2nd & 3rd at 50m backstroke, Dunne on 47.71 and Herlihy 51.73. Mallow’s Louis Higgins placed 6th with Eoin Manson, Dolphin in 7th. Little separated the boys over 50m freestyle with Dunne, again in 2nd 43.10 and Herlihy just behind on 43.60 for 3rd. Manson placed 8th with Hugo O’Riordan, SWSC in 9th. The placings were reversed over 50m breaststroke with Herlihy in 2nd 57.76 and Dunne in 3rd 59.94. Manson placed 10th overall.
Four of the team featured in the top ten at 100m breaststroke with Kevin Murphy in 2nd 1:59.75 and Eoghan Looney in 3rd 2:04.44. Teammates Michael McManus and Arthur Dineen placed 5th and 8th overall.
Charlotte May Costello and Aoife Song placed 2nd and 3rd at 50m breaststroke, posting 59.10 and 59.61 respectively.
Cork swimmers also featured prominently in the 11-year-old category.
Niamh Doyle, Clonakilty led the way at 50m butterfly 48.27. Isabella Manley, Dolphin, was just behind on 48.71 for 2nd. Dolphin clubmates, Laya Kiely and Doireann Leane placed 4th & 9th with Beth Buckley, Mallow in 6th and Sheola Harrington, SWSC in 8th.
There was a clean sweep for the Dolphin girls at 100m breaststroke with Isabella Malley in pole position 1:55.05, Jess Merrigan 2nd on 1:59.72 and Emily Williams completing the podium on 2:00.24. Team-mates Doireann Leane and Skye Dineen placed 8th and 10th overall.
The Dolphin girls were again prominent over the shorter 50m distance, Laya Kiely and Isabella Malley in 2nd & 3rd with Jess Merrigan and Emily Williams in 4th & 5th.
Seven Cork girls featured in the top 10 at 50m freestyle, Siun Herlihy, Mallow led the Cork charge with a second-place finish, 39.19 and Claire Bugler, Streamline Cobh, in 3rd on 39.55. Rebecca Whelan, Dolphin, Niamh Doyle, Clonakilty, Thea Barry, SWSC, Katie Fitzgerald, Mallow and Ruby Morrisson, SWSC placed 5th to 9th respectively. Siun Malley added a 2nd place finish at 100m freestyle 1:28.94, with Isabella Malley in 6th.
Jess Merrigan had a podium finish at 100m backstroke 1:41.71 for 2nd. Maeve O’Reilly, Mallow and Layla Kiely could not be separated, both posting 1:47.67 for joint 5th place. Siun Herlihy, Niamh Doyle and Poppy Lynch, SWSC placed 7th to 9th respectively.
Thea Barry placed 2nd at 50m backstroke 46.20 with Claire Bugler in 3rd on 47.12. Jess Merrigan, Isabella Malley, Siun Herlihy and Molly Dowling, Mallow placed 4th, 6th, 7th & 8th respectively.
The boys from Dolphin were impressive at 50m butterfly. Eoghan Looney in the top spot with a strong swim 48.56. Kevin Murphy joined him on the podium 1:00.86 for 3rd. They were followed closely by Sam Horgan, Arthur Dineen and Michael McManus in 4th to 6th. Looney placed 2nd at 100m backstroke 1:43.96 with Horgan, McManus and Dineen in 6th, 8th & 9th.
Garvan Gillard returned to Blackrock with two 1st place finishes at 100m butterfly 1:33.64 and 50m freestyle 33.22 and two 2nd place finishes at 200m IM 3:04.12 and 100m freestyle 1:13.18.