Ireland's Darragh Greene. Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Rising Star

'We didn’t have the facilities that athletes needed. Now, Ireland is beginning to look after its own'

Multiple Irish record holder Darragh Greene has welcomed the growth of swimming in Ireland over the past five years.

READING DARRAGH GREENE’S profile and achievements, you’d be forgiven for thinking that years of training at junior level had led to 12 months of unparalleled success.

The 23-year-old, a breaststroke specialist, shone at his first World University Games in 2017 – earning himself a sixth-placed finish in the 50m final in Taipei.

In August of last year, he finished his 100m prelims at the European Swimming Championships in Glasgow in a time of 1.00.20, an Irish senior record.

Not content with that, he then became the first Irishman register a sub-minute performance (59.92 seconds) later that evening.

The fact that he narrowly missed out on a place in the final after an intense swim-off against Russian Kirill Prigoda did little too dampen his disappointment after back-to-back groundbreaking swims.

More recently, the Longford native’s exploits saw him become the man to beat in his main event at the Irish Open swimming championships.

Greene took down Andrew Bree’s 11-year-old Irish Senior Record in 2.10.05, winning 200m breaststroke gold and finishing more than two seconds ahead of 2016 Olympian Nicholas Quinn.

Darragh Greene breaks the Irish record for 200m Breastroke Darragh Greene breaks the Irish record for 200m Breastroke in March 2019. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s funny, I’ve only broke out over the last two years so it’s taken me a while,” he tells The42.

I was never really there at junior level so it’s kind of a different approach for someone who was not as involved at junior level.

“I was never on the national team. I was on a few development squads for Connacht and that. It’s hard. You always had those doubts in your head.

At that stage you’re always thinking whether you want to continue [swimming] or if you want to do another sport.

“Swim Ireland now compared to then, every national swimmer had to go abroad to train.

“We didn’t have the facilities for the training they needed to go to international meets and perform.

“There was nothing really there for [national swimmers] at the time. It’s a complete game-changer now. Ireland is beginning to look after its own.”

For Rio in 2016, three of Ireland’s four-person team were based abroad. Fiona Doyle studied and trained in the Canadian city of Calgary, while Irish-qualified Shane Ryan completed the bulk of his preparation for the Games in Pennsylvania.

Quinn, while not swept across the Atlantic, based himself out of the University of Edinburgh – only a short flight from his native Mayo.

Being in the [National Aquatic] Centre now, we’ve got seven athletes who are going to the World Championships. That’s crazy for an Irish team.

“That’s the kind of support that is in there now. Even if you come in on a bad day, that’s the sort of help that’s out there.”

Darragh Greene Darragh Greene pictured at the announcement of Tesco Ireland's two-year sporting sponsorship of Swim Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Irish swimming has grown in strength since the end of the last Olympic cycle and there are real hopes that with Ryan, Greene and diver Oliver Dingley all hitting peak form, Ireland could register only its second-ever swimming medallist at the Games in Tokyo.

Asked if he could explain his recent successes, Greene says that deferring his Sports Science studies in DCU and adapting his training to the demands of international swimming, he’s been able to reach new heights.

“I changed programme. I started training out in the national centre with Ben Higson and Steve Beckerleg.

That was the breakthrough for me. It was the next step I needed. It was one of those things that I knew [if I wanted to improve] I’d need to take the next step.

“But I didn’t know how to take that next step. The lads had the answers for me.

“The coaching team want you to deliver a lifetime best on the day that counts. That’s we base [results] off of.

“The training you do all year is based towards this one morning, this one swim and doing the fastest time you’ve ever done.

That was the goal for Europeans. To get up and get into the semi-final – I was able to make Irish history. That’s great and now we want more.

“At this World Championships it’s kind of cool to think that if you can muster a lifetime best, you could be going to the Games.”

Shane Ryan spearheads the team going to the FINA World Championships in South Korea this summer, along with the experience of Brendan Hyland, Conor Ferguson and the upcoming Niamh Coyne.

“Both our season best and lifetime best performances at the Irish Open were impressive and we can now focus on this final cycle into the summer and deliver again in each athlete’s benchmark meet,” National Performance Director Jon Rudd said of the team announcement in April.

Ireland’s continuous development in this area is reflected in Greene’s own journey to success and coming to the fore of Irish swimming in the past year.

Looking ahead to the summer’s competition, the Longford native says he’s relishing the chance to prove he deserves to be ranked among the country’s best.

“When you get into the arena, the performance will take care of itself. You’ll have a different experience with nerves and adrenaline but the bigger the occasion, the more I tend to enjoy it.

There’s a different buzz to what’s on the line. You’re racing against the world’s best. There’s nothing better than representing your country against the very best.”

Darragh was speaking at the launch of Tesco Ireland’s sporting title partnership with Swim Ireland, the National Governing Body (NGB) for swimming, water polo and diving in Ireland. Under the new agreement, Tesco pledges to support Swim Ireland in providing as many ‘little helps’ as possible to the organisation, its athletes and their families, as well as aiming to increase active participation in swimming throughout the country through a number of joint initiatives which will be rolled out over the life of the partnership.

Subscribe to our new podcast, The42 Rugby Weekly, here:

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel