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18 for 18: Swimming sensation Mona McSharry continues to ride on the crest of a wave

The 17-year-old World Junior champion swimmer is a strong prospect for Ireland in 2018.

Over the next 10 days, our 18 for 18 series will look at 18 Irish athletes aged 18 or younger set for a big 2018. You can read the rest of the series here

Mona McSharry during the final Mona McSharry swimming in the 100m breaststroke final at the European Short Course Swimming Championships this year. Source: Giorgio Scala/INPHO

2017 WAS A year to remember for Sligo swimmer Mona McSharry.

At 17 she’s already a world champion, after collecting the gold medal in the 100m breaststroke at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Indianapolis USA during the summer.

It’s a remarkable achievement in its own right, but the fact that McSharry’s first place finish makes her the first Irish swimmer to win gold at the World Junior Swimming Championships, adds another layer of prestige to it all.

Her winning time of 1:07.10 surpasses Fiona Doyle’s 2015 Irish Record of 1:07.15 by five hundredths of a second.

Unsurprisingly, McSharry has also excelled on the continent this year. She came home from the European Junior Swimming championships in July with two gold medals in the 50m breaststroke and the 100m breaststroke.

She also pocketed a silver medal finish in the 200m breaststroke to bring her overall haul of podium finishes to three at that competition.

McSharry rounded off the year with a stunning campaign at the European Short Course Swimming Championships in Copenhagen earlier this month.

In her debut year competing as a senior international swimmer, she worked her way into the final of the 100m breaststroke, where she came home in fifth place — just two tenths of a second away from a bronze medal.

Tweet by @Off The Ball Source: Off The Ball/Twitter

She previously told Off The Ball AM that qualifying for a final would be a satisfactory result, but she eclipsed those expectations with her performance in that race.

And although she fell short of a medal place at the championships, she did manage to make a new Irish record time of 1:05.01 and break her own record of 1:05.27.

After that stunning result, she said:

“It was unbelievable.

Even to walk out there and the crowd was going crazy and that whole atmosphere, that’s why I do this, because I want to be in those finals and I want to be doing as good as I can. I got a PB (personal best) and a new Irish senior record so it’s unbelievable really.”

Swimming is all-consuming sport. The intense training regimes consist of early morning sessions before school, and the long seasons leave very little room for the kind of socialising that teenagers of McSharry’s age typically like to engage in.

In that Off The Ball AM interview, she did admit that she sometimes feels like she’s missing out on those events with her friends but the sacrifice is worth the rewards she has earned so far in swimming.

The 2020 Olympic Games is rapidly coming into focus for the Sligo native as we look towards the new year and while her progress is undoubtedly worth monitoring in 2018, it should be noted that Irish swimming has lost talents of her calibre in the past.

2012 Olympic swimmer Gráinne Murphy was a strong prospect for Ireland at one point, but she announced her retirement from the sport last year at the age of just 22. She had suffered from a series of injury setbacks including a serious lung infection which impeded her training.

McSharry will be aware of the various pitfalls which could harm her career, but if can sustain her times in competition and avoid injury as much as possible, she could be well on her way to booking her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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