Portlaoise Leisure centre took centre stage for the highlight of the Laois swimming year when last weekend it hosted the Laois Marlins annual swimming gala.
Swimmers came from far and wide as the Marlins welcomed teams from Nenagh, Tullamore, Kilkenny, Carlow and Portarlington to compete over a series of 28 individual races and four team relay events.
The day itself proved a massive success for all concerned with the viewing area in the Leisure Centre full to capacity over thirty minutes before the first race, a clear sign of the growing interest in swimming in the midlands, as well as a clear indication of the aspirations of the Laois club to compete at a national and international level.
In total over 110 swimmers competed on the day, an increase of over 30% on the previous year. The Gala itself is aimed at girls and boys under the age the 12 allowing everyone to have fun while trying new events without the added pressure of some of the bigger venues or the interference of their older brothers and sisters.
Adding to the fun nature of the day Kevin Bracken ensured that every child went home with something by kindly donating an Easter Egg for every boy and girl who took part on the day.
Success in the pool was just as sweet as the chocolate available afterwards, with the 30 Marlins taking home 13 gold, 15 silver and 10 bronze medals in the Individuals events, as well as combining to take home team gold in two of the relays, and team bronze in another relay.
Galas are not just about medals and podium finishes, they are about giving our boys and girls the opportunity to test themselves and see the fruition of their long hours of training and as such the 40 personal bests set on the day were far more important to the coaches than the haul of 38 medals.
The medal collection was spread far and wide over the squad with 17 swimmers each earning the opportunity to display their medal along with their beaming smile. Pride of place went to the Irish Minor Schools Champion hailing from Emo, Conor McMahon, who took home a huge collection of four gold and one silver individual medal as well as gold in the relay.
Conor is no stranger to the podium and his medal collection added to those won by his equally impressive sister Zara, has left the McMahon household under pressure to build an extension to house their joint collection.
Other notable performances on the day came from Enya Holt (three individual medals), Conor Menendez (four individual medals), Jennifer Holland (four individual medals), Zara McMahon (three individual medals), James Carroll (four individual medals) and Caoimhe Moore (three individual medals).
In addition to this Valera Zaharovs, Cian Nugent, Daniel Brain, Sean McNeill, Ben Wall, James McDonald and Gary Young O’ Shea came up trumps for the boys by adding nine medals to the haul. For the girls Shauna Dunne, Amy O’Halloran and Amy Bergin all added medals to make sure they weren’t outdone by the boys.
Eleanor Holland, Roisin Bracken, Aoibhin McDonald and Daniela Ryan combined to register a whopping 12 personal bests on the day, a sure sign that their dedication and training is paying dividends, well done girls.
A number of our newer recruits got their first experience of competitive swimming and as such we would like to congratulate Kate Redmond, Holly Whelan, Eimear Gildea, Taylor Leavy, Colin McEvoy, Ada Scully and Hannah Schiller for competing on the day, and now that they have registered their first competitive times, Irina and her coaching team look forward to helping the boys and girls to develop over the coming months and years.
On behalf of Laois Marlins we would like to sincerely thank Mark Reddin and his team at the Portlaoise leisure centre for their hospitality and life-guarding, we would like to thank all the parents, friends and family who helped out with time-keeping and we would like to thank all the local businesses who generously sponsored each of the races.
A few special thanks to Kevin Bracken for his continued generosity, to the parents and coaches of our neighbouring clubs for supporting our gala, and finally to the parents of our swim team and the swim team itself for the time, dedication and pride they always bring to the pool.