Darragh is the big fish in London after winning Paralympic gold for Ireland
GOREY'S Darragh McDonald powered his way to a gold medal in the 400m freestyle final at the Paralympics in the Aquatic Centre on Saturday last.
The talented 18-year-old shaved a massive seven seconds off his P.B., clocking a winning time of 4:55.56. Anders Olsson of Sweden took silver in 5:03.44 and Martin Whorwood of Great Britain took bronze in 5:11.59.
Darragh is an amputee who began swimming competitively at the Asgard club in 2006.
'From this morning I knew I had more left in the tank but I didn't think there was that much,' he said. 'It is great, it shows how far Paralympics swimming has come in four years.
'I said to myself before I started that I was not going to think about times. That is what I did.
'It's a ten-second P.B. since this morning. I cannot believe it, it's just great.'
Former Paralympic champion and Paralympic Ireland swimming team manager, Dave Malone, commented on Darragh's achievement: 'It was a classic case of age and experience versus youth and hunger. Youth and hunger won'.
Darragh made rapid progress from the start of his swimming career, earning selection for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and winning an impressive 400m freestyle silver. The next year, he competed in the I.P.C. European Championships, where he followed up his Paralympic success with two further silvers (100m freestyle and 400m freestyle).
Bronze in the latter event at 2011's I.P.C. European Championships underlined Darragh's ability to deliver top-class performances on the big stage. After competing at the Games, Darragh will study for his Leaving Certificate.
Meanwhile, Catherine O'Neill from New Ross began her Paralympic campaign on Saturday morning with a fourth-place finish in the women's club competition F31/32/35.
O'Neill looked composed in the electric atmosphere of the stadium and threw a distance of 13.64, which was enough to qualify her for the final.
In the decider, she threw a distance of 13.05 which was not enough to move into a medal position.
'I threw well in the first three throws, but it just didn't happen for me. Disappointing,' she said.
'The atmosphere was quite distracting, so I worked hard to block it out. I look forward now to my main event - the discus.'