THE newly-formed Aura Dundalk Swimming Club enjoyed a year of continued highs in 2012.
Formed just a few months earlier by local parents, the club had its first taste of competitive swimming in January at the Leinster Graded Gala Championships at the National Aquatic Centre in Blanchardstown. With three months of hard training under their belts from head coach Mark Rafferty, not only did the swimmers compete well but Ciaran Hearty, Michael Grace, Rebecca McDonnell, Isabelle McDonnell, Ronan Conneally and Ruth Clarke all came home with medals.
All the hard work and dedication of the swimmers, parents, coaches and committee members in getting the only competitive swimming club in the county up and running was recognised on Saturday 3rd March when Swim Ireland invited ADSC to provide basket carriers and medal carriers at the Irish Long Course Swimming Championship and Olympic Trials held in Blanchardstown. It was a fantastic experience as five swimmers given the responsibility of looking after the personal belongings of the top Irish swimmers and visiting USA team while they competed. Two older members of ADSC, Isabelle and Rebecca McDonnell, were given the envious task of escorting all winners to the podium along with carrying the medals for presentation.
The club were fast building a reputation as a force to be reckoned with and 13 swimmers travelled to Dublin on Sunday 1st April for the annual Cormorant Swimming Club Gala. There were no April Fools though for the Dundalk swimmers who managed to bring back a haul of 26 medals, eight of which were gold. The success didn't stop there, as one of the parents even managed to win the half-time raffle!
A 13-strong team then travelled to Dublin Airport in May to take part in the Aer Lingus Swim Club Gala and they got off to flying start in the very first event as Any McMahon secured gold with a
personal best of 47.56 secs in the Girls 10 and under 50m Freestyle. While more medals were hard to come by on the day, that did not take away from the tremendous effort being put in by all swimmers, in particular those trying new events for the first time including Aine Mellin, Clodagh Conneally, Caoimhe Murphy and Leah Martin for the girls while Zak Coan, Ronan Conneally, Darren Lynch and Conal Kelly did likewise for the boys. The event also included ADSC's first relay team entry with the team of Rebecca and Isabelle McDonnell, Clodagh Conneally and Aine Mellin taking to the water.
In June, seven swimmers headed for the NAC again to compete in the Annual NAC Long Course Gala which offered them the chance to compete in an Olympic-sized 50m pool which none of the Dundalk swimmers had done before. The girls were represented by Megan Mullen, Rachel O'Brien and Leah Martin while Dean Mullen, Emmet Kirk, Eamon Crawford and Conal Kelly competed for the boys.
The club's first season ended that month with a massive pizza party after their final training session.
The club was delighted to have local National Champion swimmer Brian O'Sullivan on hand to make the various presentations on the evening. Each swimmer received a commemorative medal to mark the end of the first season for the club as five additional awards were given out. Conal Kelly and Ruth Clarke won Club Person of the Year, male and female, while Emmet Kirk and Leah Martin scooped Most Improved Swimmer, male and female. The inaugural winner of the Swimmer of the Year Perpetual Shield was Rebecca McDonnell.
Training began again in early September with some new members attending, including international swimmer, Brian O'Sullivan and he will now represent the local club when not on international duty.
In October, 16 swimmers returned to the NAC for the Leinster Graded Gala, and again there was medal success for Emmet Kirk, Darren Lynch, Rachel O'Brien, Naoise Caroll, Aoife Fay, Conall Kelly, and Dylan McMahon.
November saw the club attempt a 30km Swimathon to raise funds and not only did they achieve the target, but went on to reach 40km, astounding all in attendance.
A hectic early December saw the club compete in a number of galas, including the long-established ESB Gala. A total of 16 swimmers competed including first timers Dervla Mellin and Sarah Crosse, following in the footsteps of big sisters Aine and Andrea as well as another outing for the relay team.
To cap off this extraordinary year, 14 swimmers travelled to the NAC to compete in the annual NUI Maynooth Devils Christmas Gala. With a new club gear having arrived just in time for it and another set of outstanding personal bests among all the swimmers, it was a tremendous way to see out a fantastic year for the club.