The Irish Open Long Course Swimming Championships is held at the University of Limerick every year over a Friday and Saturday every March.
One fantastic fact about this competition is that it is open to all participants, with no entry times required in order to take part.
When you enter to participate for the event, you provide an estimated time. You can put any time you wish for entry. That time is used to attempt to organise swimmers in heats so that you will be swimming with others who can also make those times.
The competition is a timed final. This means you don’t have to swim qualifying heats, then semi-finals and finally finals. Your single time is your time and is ranked against other competitors in your age group.
The events take place as follows:
- Friday evening, participants compete in one of the few indoor pool 1500M competitions.
This swim is very popular with triathletes and long-distance swimmers to evaluate their baseline fitness early in the year.
There are also several swimmers taking advantage of the rare offerings of this event to allow them to clock a time for entry in other competitions.
- Saturday is when all other events are held.
As this is an open event, all participant levels are accepted and accommodated in the events.
There are swimmers who are trying to prepare for future competitions and participants who simply want to try something new.
You won’t be alone if you’ve never competed, dove from starting blocks or done a flip turn!
Saturday can seem like a long day, but there is plenty of time for a quick nap or lunch during the middle of the day.
The events involved also include relays, where you can enjoy competing as a group of four members of your team either in single-gender events or as part of a mixed relay. Relays mean that you only have to complete one length of the pool and can share the experience with your friends.
Atlantic Masters Swim Club Participation
This year, two AMSC members participated, Grainne and Brian. You can see their thoughts on the experience below.
Brian is a regular participant at the event, usually competing in at least 8 events over the weekend. This year, however, the organisers also limited the number of events in which participants can enter. (The editor believes this allows for a wider number of participants to take part. The editor also believe that Brian probably considers this a way for the organisers can save money on the large number of medals he would otherwise win.)
On Saturday, 5th March 2022 the Irish Open Long Course Swimming Championships took place at the University of Limerick Sports Centre following an absence of two years.
Masters Swimming is a far cry from the intensity of Age Group Swimming where most competitors started. Instead of shouting coaches and anxious parents, it’s the Foo Fighters in the background, good-natured banter about settling old scores in the pool and cheers for the late finishers. There may be a lot less hair on top and more bulk elsewhere but once the starting gun fires everyone is a swimmer again. The majority of Masters competitors trained daily through their teenage years knowing there was no bonfire on the roadside for them, going to school with wet hair, perpetually hungry but hoping for the personal best (PB) that would get them to the Nationals or onto an elite squad. Yet here they are, twenty, thirty or forty years later still competing for swimming is a tough sport and staying committed to it requires stamina and single-mindedness. The honour of the oldest competitor on the day was 85-year-old Phil Hardy who won the 50m Freestyle in his age category in a time of 50.48sec.
Where there once was competitiveness, there’s now camaraderie and a welcome for competitors from other swimming disciplines. The 1,500, 800 and 400 metre Freestyle events attract triathletes and open water swimmers offering a new challenge and more pleasant swimming conditions in the ‘off season’. The formal setting of the 50m pool, the different whistles and €300 swimsuits can be off-putting to many but all swimmers are welcome and should experience this event at least once.
I entered the 50m and 100m Butterfly which were ‘my’ events back in the day of being Age Group swimmer with Shark Swimming Club. I knew my preparation was less than ideal as it’s been endurance and distance training in the sea and pool for the past few years. The last time I competed in the 100m Butterfly was at the Inter-varsity in Leisureland in 198ahem; then fast forward to 2022, the distance was the same but the pace was a lot more ‘pedestrian’. The 50m Butterfly though hadn’t changed that much. It was still a head-down, lung-busting, arms-burning sprint for the wall followed by squinting up at the score board to sort out the place finishers. Once the computers had sorted us all into our age and gender categories, I had a gold and silver medals to take home.
My first race up was 400 freestyle, which should have been my best race but was my worst! Hard to get into swing of racing after 2 years, the length of that pool and pacing. Still won it in my age group.
My 2nd swim was 200 Individual Medley or IM. That’s 50m or 1 length on each stroke: butterfly, backstrokc, breaststroke and freestyle. I felt a bit more at home in the pool and was a bit happier with my time. A guy from the UK beat me but I beat him in next race, the 100 butterfly and was happy with that.
Last race in pm session was 200 breaststroke and was happy with that, too.
The schedule of events this year was:
Session 1: Friday 4th March 7:00pm to 10:00pm
- Mixed 1500m Freestyle.
Session 2: Saturday 5th March 9:00am to 1:00pm
- Mixed 400m Freestyle
- Mixed 50m Breaststroke
- Mixed 200m Individual Medley
- Mixed 50m Backstroke
- Mixed 200m Freestyle
- Mixed 100m Butterfly
- Mixed 100m Backstroke
- Men 4*50m Medley Relay
- Women 4*50m Medley Relay
- Mixed 4*50m Medley Relay
- Mixed 800m Freestyle
Session 3: Saturday 5th March 2:00pm to 6:00pm
- Mixed 400 Individual Medley
- Mixed 100m Freestyle
- Mixed 200m Breaststroke
- Mixed 50m Butterfly
- Mixed 200m Backstroke
- Mixed 100m Breaststroke
- Mixed 200m Butterfly
- Mixed 50m Freestyle
- Men 4*50m Freestyle Relay
- Women 4*50m Freestyle Relay
- Mixed 4*50m Freestyle Relay