Sunday 17 November 2019

Swimming: Murphy future up in air after exit of coach Claes

Cliona Foley

RONALD Claes, the highly ranked Belgian who has coached Grainne Murphy to five European medals, has denied that he quit his position with Swim Ireland (SI) in their high performance centre at the University of Limerick.

SI released a statement on Saturday saying that the coach and organisation had "agreed to part company", but Claes has denied that there was mutual agreement.

"I'm disappointed, I wanted to stay," he said. "My goal was to do another four years in Ireland, I was at the end of my contract and I didn't get a new one."

He said the decision not to reappoint him has left the group of swimmers who train at UL in the lurch.

"For them everything is up in the air and they are left as the biggest victims of it all. I don't have a job, but they are supposed to be getting back in the pool now and they don't know what's going on.

"Chris Bryan (Ireland's top open-water swimmer) has his European Championships and two weeks before that he's without a coach. The timing of it is far from perfect."

Alan Ward, the manager of UL's pool, said he was informed of the decision by text and expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation.

"They (SI) are entitled to do their business, but we're meant to be a partnership," he said.

"Ronald had the role within UL so we thought we might have been given the heads-up on what was happening. Ronald is going to be a huge loss to Irish swimming."

Claes has been coaching at Limerick for five years and his departure immediately raises questions about where Murphy (19), who has worked with him since she was 14, will train in the future.

Murphy won three European junior titles in 2009 and a European senior silver medal in 2010 but had a disappointing Olympics after failing to recover from the illness that affected her build-up and Claes' departure has raised speculation that she may yet opt to train abroad.

SI acknowledged that Claes has "worked very hard and been extremely dedicated and committed to the programme and has contributed immensely to the building of a strong performance centre at the University of Limerick".

They said that interim arrangements have been put in place for their Limerick training centre and that national performance director Peter Banks, who is currently in the US, will evaluate the programmes of all of their high-performance centres on his return, with a view to Rio 2016.

Irish Independent

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