Portmarnock Swim Team (formerly Portmarnock Amateur Swimming Club / Portmarnock Penguins) was one of the first clubs to set up within Portmarnock Sports & Leisure Center shortly after it opened around 1984 and 32 years later we are the only original club still in existence within the centre. It was a small local swim club with some success at regional level but none at national level. After 12 years in existence, it’s now 1996, a new head coach was needed and the club approached Peter O’Brien who was an assistant coach from a very successful club.
When they spoke to the coach, his comments were not about winning medals or how successful the club would become, it was based on a simple philosophy of coaching. Every swimmer that swims on the team has the opportunity, if they are willing to make the commitment to fulfil their potential. He was not interested in counting medals, in short terms wins or losses. The primary emphasis was the L.T.A.D. (Long Term Athlete Development) of all swimmers. The vision was to provide the opportunity and environment for swimmers to reach the highest level that they are capable of achieving. That simple vision remains to this day. There were no limits; we would always find a way to get to the next level.
At the National Championships in 1998 a small number of swimmers competing at Junior and Senior level won 16 medals including 3 National Junior titles. In 1999 that same group added National Senior titles. In 1999/2000 three swimmers qualified for the Irish Schools Team and one for the Irish National Senior Team.
Over the next 10 years this belief in a simple philosophy and the faithfulness to an agreed vision has resulted in success at all levels. The principles of hard work and dedication has been reinforced, within the club everyone recognises that hard work and commitment are the most important factor. The Coaches are just as proud of the swimmers that reached their potential by making a final or even qualifying for the National Championships, as they are of the swimmers that have competed for Ireland at the World Championships. They also take great satisfaction from the educational and career achievements of the swimmers, the ethics of hard work and commitment are life values. Our community is enhanced by the Doctors, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Teachers and Social Workers etc., that swimmers from this club have become.
Swimmers from the club have represented Ireland at Age Group, Schools, Youth and Senior level. They have broken Irish Records at Junior and Senior level at both Short Course and Long Course events.
The vast majority of club members start as young as 5 years old and progress from D Squad / C2 Squad (the learning squads) to eventually the A Squad (the top squad). There have been very few exceptions. Karl Burdis (one of Ireland’s most outstanding age group swimmers) being one of these 5 year olds went on to world class level. Fiona Doyle was also one of Ireland’s most outstanding age group swimmers, Limerick born Fiona was a member of High Performance Centre in Limerick University. After many upsets and disappointments within her transition from age group to senior swimmer, having just turned 16, she moved to Dublin and became a member of Portmarnock Swim Club to seek the coaching of the already very successful Head Coach Peter O’Brien and Assistant Coach Anne Burdis. Fiona trained with Peter in the a.m. sessions at the High Performance Centre in the NAC and the p.m. sessions in Portmarnock Sports & Leisure Centre with Anne Burdis. With the help of the Portmarnock Swim Club parents, she was found a suitable home and family to live with in Portmarnock and continued her education in the Institute of Education in Leeson Street. After achieving world class level at the World Championships she got a swimming scholarship to the University of Calgary, Canada where she continued to progress.
The range and depth of the clubs activities can be highlighted by looking at the last number of years. Over the course of 2009 season, swimmers from Portmarnock competed at their first competition (as young as 6 years of age) swimming in races over 25m, swimmers competed at graded meets and at Leinster Age Group level, Leinster Senior and Open level, Irish Age Groups Division 2, Irish Age Groups and Irish Youth Championships, Irish Open Championships, British Age Group Championships, European Championships, World University Games and World Championships.
Karl Burdis and Fiona Doyle both qualified to swim at the 13th FINA World Championships in Rome. Karl and Fiona both broke Irish Records and were both selected as relay team members in the Medley and Freestyle Team Relay events. Karl’s 100 B/C time ranked him 26th in the World in 2009. Karl also competed at World University games and qualified for the final in the 100 B/C placing 7th, he qualified in the semi-finals in the 50 B/C and 200 B/C. In the course of the World University Games and World Championships Karl set 17 individual Irish Senior Records and was a member of a relay that set 4 Irish Senior Records.
Jack Cobain again qualified for the final of the 100 B/C and 200 B/C at the British Age Group Championships. Jack and Therese Corry both won events at the National Age Group Championships, with Therese winning best overall girl in her age group. Therese went on to compete at the National Open Championships and again medalled in a number of events. Evan O’Keeffe maintained his excellent form all year and added the National title in his age group to the Leinster open title in the 1500 F/S among many great swims at the National Youth Championships. Jack went on to achieve an Academic & Swim Scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, USA and is very successful there.
When Swim Ireland set up a National High Performance Centre in Dublin, five Portmarnock swimmers were involved. This was a huge endorsement of the success and dedication of the swimmers and the programme.
In 2010 the progress continued a notable 1-2-3 finish in the 200 B/C at the Irish National Short Course Championships, this was from 4 swimmers at the event. All 4 swimmers were medal winners and the 4 swimmers qualified for a total of 12 Finals.
Swimmers from the Club compete at Inter-Club, Regional, National and International level throughout the year. The club is represented at over 20 meets per year. Selected swimmers are also involved at Club, Regional, National and International level training camps.
Swimmers from the Club have competed in every major competition apart from the Olympics. Events include Youth Olympics, European Junior, European Senior, World University Games, World Championships. Whilst Karl was a student (Swim Scholarship) at the University of Minesotta he was medalled at Big 10 conferences and N.C.A.A. (All American University Championships). His second two year swim scholarship to the University of Tampa, Florida, saw Karl rise to great heights, producing the best swims of his life, several more N.C.A.A. medals and even All-American Athletics Awards as well as All-American Academic Awards. Karl also achieved Student of the Year in his graduation year in his faculty. These highly achieved awards earned him a “Green Card” in December 2015 and he is now a “Permanent Resident of the USA”.
The Club now have swimmers and coaches linked to the High Performance Centre and a swimmer based at the University of Calgary. Coaches from the club have been selected as Team Staff for many National teams and competitions including the European and World Championships. Anne Burdis, also a National Team Manager is continually selected as Team Staff for worldwide competitions.
The Club value the structure and traditions that have developed and have ensured that all coaching staff are trained and mentored in the implementation of a specific structure and training programme. Since 1996 this club stayed loyal to a vision, it is still a small club but it is one of the most successful Clubs in Ireland.
At the World Student Games in 2015, Fiona Doyle qualified for the Olympic Games – Rio 2016, in the 100 B/S. Portmarnock Swim Team will continue to focus on providing the structure and environment to allow all swimmers to reach their full potential in their chosen sport of swimming.