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Cousins make a splash with 90km canal swim for charity

AN epic 90km swim through the waters of the Grand Canal is being undertaken by two intrepid fundraisers.

Patrick McGrath (43) and his cousin Julie Judge (41) plunged into the waters of the canal at Shannon Harbour in Co Offaly where it meets the River Shannon last Saturday -- and proceeded to swim right across the Irish Midlands.

The twosome are swimming an average of 15km each day in relays with plans to arrive at Robertstown, Co Kildare, in time for the Canal Fest this Saturday.

Patrick, an out-of-work plasterer, and Julie, an accounts worker, both live in Clane, Co Kildare. They undertook the swim in memory of Patrick's father Paddy who died from cancer.

Paddy, a native of Allenwood, Co Kildare, and his brother Larry both worked on a CIE canal barge with their father Tom on the Grand Canal for several years in the 1950s.

In later years, Paddy moved to Prosperous and regularly hired a boat to holiday on the canal with friends.

The aim of the swim is to raise as much money as possible for St Brigid's Hospice in The Curragh, Co Kildare, where Paddy received care and kindness during his final battle with cancer. He died in 2008.

"I miss my dad so much. I feel that I can understand better all the things my father said about his time on the canal by getting into its waters," said Patrick, who lost four stone since January while training for the swim.

"It's been great meeting lockkeepers and other people my father knew along the canal."

A sum in the region of €5,000 has been raised so far and donations are still welcome.