Ballyshannon teacher vies for place on Irish squad

As the country celebrates the achievements of one Ulster man on the far - off greens of Congressional in the US one Donegal teacher is all set to battle for the final place on the Irish surfing team in a head to head battle with one of his closest friends.

As the country celebrates the achievements of one Ulster man on the far - off greens of Congressional in the US one Donegal teacher is all set to battle for the final place on the Irish surfing team in a head to head battle with one of his closest friends.

Donegal’s John “JB” Britton who is a teacher in the Holy Family School in Ballyshannon and from the Rossnowlagh surfing family of the same name will go head to head or “fin to fin” with Waterford’s Keith O’Brien in an encounter that will decide the remaining position on the Irish surf team to compete at the European Surfing Championships “Eurosurf” in Bundoran in September.

Since joining the Ballyshannon school, John or “Master Britton” has brought a new dimension to the school which has produced many hurlers and footballers for the famous Aodh Ruadh Club.

John is now taking many of the pupils to the water in nearby Rossnowlagh and introducing them to the world of surfing.

Since last January, hundreds of Irish surfers have competed in selection events across the west and north coast with the hope of accumulating enough points to make the grade for the Irish surf team.

Following the fourth and final event in Portrush, both Keith and John found themselves tied on points for the final place on the team. These two lads have always been close even though they live in totally opposite ends of the country - they were both born within days of each other, both got married within weeks of each other and both became fathers at almost the same time.

Having grown up literally on the beach in Rossnowlagh with the surname Britton, surfing is very much in John’s blood and he enjoys nothing more than taking his favourite board down to the famous drive-on beach and letting rip in the Atlantic waters.

Just last year he made the move home to Donegal from Dublin with his wife Fiona to nearby Ballyshannon.

John is more than familiar with the Eurosurf competition having competed for Ireland in both the 1996 event held in Portugal and the 1998 event held in France – both times in the open division.

The Ballyshannon teacher is sponsored by his brother Neil who runs the Finn McCools Surf School and Lodge and no mean surfer himself and is never short of some expert advice from his father, Brian, now a “Silver Surfer” and his cousin Easkey who is rated as one of the best in the world.

Having caught the surfing bug from his brothers at an early age of 13 under the shadows of the Metal Man along Tramore Beach Keith grew up surfing in the competitive environment of the surf resort and currently lives in Dublin with wife Eva and works as a software engineer.

O’Brien has also competed for the Irish team on 4 occasions, Eurosurf in Portugal (1999) and at the World Surfing Games – Portugal ’98, Brazil ’00, South Africa ’02 and is no stranger to our Donegal shores.

At both aged 32 and 12 days between their birthdays, this riveting surf - off should provide an entertaining spectacle as both men clamber to secure the vital points that will lead to a place on the Irish surf team and the honour of representing their country on the European stage this September.