Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Never in a million years did we think he'd win' - dad of 15-year-old Liffey champion

Men’s race winner Mark Hanley lifts the Liffey Swim Independent Cup (the trophy was donated by this newspaper in 1921). Picture: INPHO
Men’s race winner Mark Hanley lifts the Liffey Swim Independent Cup (the trophy was donated by this newspaper in 1921). Picture: INPHO
JUST KEEP GOING: One of the brave souls in yesterday’s Liffey Swim. Picture: Jason Clarke

Aoife Walsh

The father of a 15-year-old teen who won yesterday's men's race in the 100th Liffey Swim still can't believe his son's win.

Meath teen Mark Hanley managed to swim his way to victory yesterday - despite balancing training with studying for his Junior Cert.

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"I missed my first few swims because of the Junior Cert, then I was away with the Irish team for the water polo but I still got my swims in on the weekends," said Mark, who is a member of North Dublin Swimming Club, adding that he was "very tired but very proud" of his win, and plans to spend the evening in bed catching up on some much-needed rest.

Mark's father, Barry, said he "just can't believe" his son's success in the 2.2-km race.

"Never in a million years did we think he'd win it. We thought he'd have a chance at winning the junior section, so for him to go and to win this is just incredible," he said.

"We swim Tuesdays and Fridays in Westwood, and in Clontarf Baths on Mondays and Thursdays, so there's a fair bit goes into it.

"He just did his Junior Cert and it was kind of funny because you needed 12 swims to qualify and he missed some. So in the end he got a wild card from the club - but he missed the swims because he was doing the Junior Cert. Thankfully the lads in the club stuck by him," he added.

Mark was followed by 61-year-old Billy Keogh of Sandycove SC.

In the women's race, first place went to Sinead Delaney - a veteran swimmer who first did the race 25 years ago.

The 38-year-old from Phoenix SC in Clondalkin, swam alongside her mother, Joan, another Liffey veteran.

"I wasn't expecting to win," said Sinead. "I did my first Liffey 25 years ago, when I was 13. And it was all thanks to mam that I got into swimming in the first place.

"When I dived in I knew I had to catch mam, and there's another girl, Catherine Fenton, I knew I'd have to do everything to catch them - and I passed them just before O'Connell Bridge. I thought it was never going to end, it was the longest and hardest race I've ever done," she said.

Sinead was follwed by Sarah Keane and Niamh Burgan, both of Clontarf SC.

Last week heavy rainfall in Dublin caused sewer debris to seep into the Liffey. "The results were exceptionally poor and significantly exceeded the maximum permitted levels for designated bathing waters," a council spokesperson said. "But then, the Liffey would not be a designated bathing water location."

Speaking about the Liffey water yesterday, the 2019 men's champ was quite happy. "It was grand," he said. "I actually think it was cleaner this year than last year. Less gunk on the top."

Sunday Independent

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