Ireland’s elite have been racing behind closed doors in two time-trial events held in a number of performance centres across the country.
The ‘Identified Athlete Time Trials’, as the trials are being called, took place across two weekends in March and featured the likes of Brendan Hyland, Shane Ryan, Danielle Hill, Ellen Keane, Bethy Firth and Darragh Greene.
The University of Limerick and Craigavon Leisure Centre played host to the respective Munster-based and Ulster-based performance athletes on the weekend of March 12th -13th.
The National Aquatics Centre in Dublin then welcomed the athletes from each of the three provinces on March 19th-20th.
These trials happened less than one month before the National Aquatics Centre in Dublin is due to hold the Irish National Team Trials – the main qualifying opportunity for those vying for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.
That competition, which will take place from April 20th-24th, was previously slated as the Irish Open Swimming Championships. However, due to current restrictions in place as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the meet has been stripped back and will only be open for specific athletes.
Dublin time trials
Brendan Hyland‘s fastest time in one of his main events – the 100 fly – came in at 54.01. The Dublin native is currently just .07 away from the FINA ‘A’ standard in the 200m butterfly (1:56.48), his best time standing at 1:56.55 which he set during the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019.
26-year-old Darragh Greene posted a time of 1:00.35 in the 100m breaststroke – an event he has already secured qualifying in with his PB of 59.82. Additionally, his quickest time from the weekend in the 200m breast came in at 2:13.26, though of note his PB stands at 2:10.05 in that event.
Elsewhere in the pool, Jack McMillan posted a time of 1:47.89 in the men’s 200m freestyle, less than a second away from his personal best of 1:47.10 which he set at the Irish Winter Meet in December last year.
That PB sits just .08 away from the FINA ‘A’ cut needed to qualify for the rescheduled Games. McMillan also posted a 49.23 in the men’s 100m free while in action in Dublin.
Multiple national record-holder Danielle Hill delivered a time of 1:01.18 in the 100m backstroke, an event where she is just 0.65 away from the time needed in order to secure a spot in Tokyo (1:00.25).
Limerick time trials
Darragh Green posted a time of 2:12.96 in the men’s 200m backstroke, while his National Centre Dublin teammate Brendan Hyland posted 53.62 in the 100m butterfly.
18-year-old Naomi Trait took the women’s 100m freestyle in 57.68, 0.08 faster than her seeded time heading into the time trial.
Craigavon time trials
Paralympic gold medallist for Team GB Bethy Firth was in action during the Craigavon time trial, coming in an 31.45 in the 50m backstroke and 36.77 in the 50m breaststroke.
Swim Ireland’s National Performance Direction, Jon Rudd, said the time trials delivered “encouraging results”, adding that the additional racing opportunity was a “welcome bonus” for the athletes.
He said: “To be able to run a time trial event such as this as we head into our National Team Trials was a very welcome bonus, particularly as our athletes have not experienced international preparation competition for over a year now.
“Head-to-head racing under one roof for those who aspire to represent Ireland in international competition this summer was very well received and the results from this event are certainly encouraging.
“Once our overseas athletes return to these shores for our Trials, we will have an enhanced depth in the majority of the events and this will add something more to the racing stimulus.
“There is not much more we could have done over recent months for our Performance contingent, and we can all look forward to some exciting racing in Dublin from the 20th April.”
Ben Higson, who is the National Senior Team Head Coach and Head Coach of the National Centre, Dublin, commented: “Over the last two weekends, the racing series has provided opportunities for our performance athletes to refine and repeat race strategies in a head-to-head format.
“There were some extremely encouraging swims and with exactly 4 weeks to go until our National Team Trials athletes should be excited about the opportunity to race at peak performance & challenge for spots on the summer teams.”
Additional results to note:
- Breaststroke ace Niamh Coyne stopped the clock in 1:08.83 in the women’s 100m breaststroke, her best standing at 1:07.87 from the 2018 Irish Summer Nationals. (Dublin)
- Junior national record holder Eoin Corby posted 1:01.63 in the 100m breaststroke, the 19-year-old edging nearer his current best mark of 1:01.05. (Dublin)
- Paralympic bronze medallist Ellen Keane posted 1:24.37 in the 100m breaststroke; the 25-year-old is a Paralympic veteran with three Games under her belt and will undoubtedly be gunning for another podium finish at what will be a fourth edition of the event for her this summer. (Dublin)
- Ellen Walshe won the women’s 100m butterfly with a time of 1:00.33, just over a year after she became Ireland’s first female sub-1 minute 100 fly swimmer while competing in Belgium. (Dublin)