Swimming: Grainne Murphy opts for home comforts as Limerick row rumbles on
GRAINNE MURPHY is remaining in Ireland for the moment and has resumed training at her local pool in New Ross, Co Wexford.
The 19-year-old world-class 800m/1500m freestyler, whose family moved to Limerick when she was 13 to facilitate her training, was Ireland's best hope of making a swimming final at last summer's Olympics.
However, the Wexford swimmer (above) was forced to withdraw after her first race because she was still suffering the after-effects of glandular fever. There was even more bad news subsequently, when Swim Ireland parted company with her coach Ronald Claes.
Claes coached the three-time European senior medallist for the past five years and was also in charge of Swim Ireland's high-performance training group at the University of Limerick, the future of which remains unclear.
There has been speculation that the changes in Limerick would prompt Murphy, who has her sights set on the Rio Olympics in 2016, to follow Claes or train abroad, but she has now returned to the water much closer to home.
New Ross coach Fran Ronan is working with her at the local 25-metre pool – half the size of UL's Olympic-quality facility.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Murphy said that the short-course facility is adequate for her current needs and that she has made no decision about her long-term plans yet.
There were major ripples back in September when Swim Ireland did not offer Claes a new contract.
The manner in which the coach's departure was handled not only upset his training group but caused massive friction with the University of Limerick, who part-funded him and were not consulted beforehand.
Since then, Swim Ireland's high-performance director Peter Banks has been coaching in UL on an interim basis while the association complete a major review, which is expected to radically overhaul their elite system in 2013.
Swim Ireland insist that UL will continue as one of their high-performance centres, but it is believed that they want all of their senior internationals to train together at Dublin's National Aquatic Centre (NAC) in future.
Apart from uprooting swimmers like Murphy, that would also reduce Limerick to the status of a satellite training hub for junior elites.
The college has invested heavily to establish a world-class training centre in Plassey, where swimmers can train and study on campus.
UL officials have told Swim Ireland that they will not accept their programme being downgraded and are demanding that Claes is replaced by a coach of equal international standing.