'Seal' of approval as swimming club celebrate 25 years

'Seal' of approval as swimming club celebrate 25 years

'Seal' of approval as swimming club celebrate 25 years

BY Eamonn McFadden

A milestone quarter of a century anniversary has been reached by the well known Letterkenny based Swilly Seals Swimming Club.

To mark the jubilee occasion the swimming club is hosting a 25th anniversary party in the Silver Tassie on December 27 and all past and present swimmers coaches and parents are welcome to join in the fun. Tickets are available from Paddy Delap or before and after the club squad training sessions at Aura Leisure Centre.

Current and long serving committee member, Donal McMenamin racalls the popular swimming club was formed in 1985 and affiliated to the Irish Amateur Swimming Association (IASA), now known as Swim Ireland.

From the outset the club attracted a large number of dedicated swimmers and coaches who trained enthusiastically on a regular basis at the Letterkenny Leisure Centre which was located at High Road, Letterkenny.

Now, twenty five years later, they can look back on the development of the club over the years and commend its swimmers for their dedication and commitment to training and participation in competitions, and acknowledge with gratitude the hard work and high moral standards of coaches and committee members, all of whom work on a totally voluntary basis, he states.

Contrary to common belief, Swilly Seals was not the first swimming club in Letterkenny. Ballyboe Swimming Club was a small community-based club which had been set up to cater for young swimmers, but did not compete formally. Ironically, Swilly Seals' first "gala" was a friendly with Ballyboe.

As Swilly Seals grew and developed, the swimmers began to participate in more and more events and competitions such as Community Games, both Primary and Secondary Schools national competitions, and the Ulster-wide league commonly known as the Provincial Towns League.

However, after a few short years of making progress, the club's development was stopped abruptly by the closure of Letterkenny Leisure Centre for renovations.

To keep the club alive while the repairs to the pool were being carried out, swimmers traipsed in and out to Strabane and William Street and Templemore in Derry for training sessions undertaken with help from Riversdale Otters and City of Derry swimming clubs. When eventually the pool reopened, the club re-vitalised itself with new-found enthusiasm.

By the early 1990s the club changed its formal name to Swilly Seals Letterkenny ASC, but it retained the shorter form, Swilly Seals, for day-to-day use.

During the 1990s, the club went on to achieve success at provincial and national levels in competitions such as Community Games, Provincial Towns League (even getting into Division One at one stage), Ulster Grammar Schools, Coca Colas, Fantas, Larne Sprints, Ulster Age Groups, and Senior and Junior Schools competitions.

Around the year 2000 the club set up its own website, www.SwillySeals.ie. to displays items such as the club training times, upcoming events, joining and registration information as well as an extensive photo gallery.

In the summers of 2005 and 2006, a group of swimmers from the club spent a week on a training camp in the Hungarian city of Szegad.

In 2007 the new leisure facility at Lr Sallaghagraine opened and the club is based there since September 2007. After a brief period of adjustment, the club has now settled in fairly well to a bigger brighter facility. At first the pool rental costs seemed to be so prohibitive that it was feared that the club would have to close down. However, the Town Council appreciated the position the club was in and also the many benefits the club brings to the community and rallied by providing a subsidy which enabled training to continue.

And now in 2010, as the club celebrates its 25th anniversary, it welcomes club members, past and present, to its celebrations. The club can pride itself on its present strength and on the legacy of its achievements over the years, including the social and physical benefits it brings to its members. With so many committed and dedicated coaches and committee members and such enthusiastic swimmers, the club say they can look forward with confidence to continued growth and development over the next twenty five years.