Busy summer in store for Ireland's top swimmers
A BUSY summer beckons for Ireland's top swimmers, with 28 of them scouring the globe in search of elusive medals in all of this year's major competitions.
The big target, of course, is qualification for next year's Olympics in Rio and posting times that, even at this early stage, will serve as notice that they are capable of making the qualifying times.
First up are the European Games, which take place in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 23-27, with the following having made the qualifying times: Danielle Hill, Rachel Bethel, Rory McEvoy, Mona McSherry, Alan Corby, Benjamin Doyle, Katie Baguley, Niamh Kilgallon, Iseult Hayes, Emma Reid, Andrew Moore, James Brown and Natasha MacManus (diving).
The World University Games are in Gwangjic, South Korea from July 4-11 and among those expected to be there are Sycerika McMahon, Fiona Doyle, Jordan Sloan, Shauna O'Brien, Alex Murphy, Grinne Murphy, Dan Sweeney and Nicholas Quinn.
Antoinette Neamt, Niamh Coyne, Ellen Walsh, Rebecca Reid, Conor Ferguson and Emma Moloney have all completed the qualifying times for the European Youth Olympic Festival in Tbilisi, Georgia from July 26 to August 1.
The FINA World Swimming and Open Water Championships are on from July 25 until August 9 in Kazan, Russia, with Sycerika McMahon, Fiona Doyle, Alex Murphy and Christopher Bryant (open water swimming) all in the frame.
Finally, the World Junior Swimming Championships are being held in Singapore from August 25-30, with Conor Ferguson, Antoinette Neamt, Rachel Bethel and Rory McEvoy all inside the stipulated times.
The last of this season's Irish Cup water polo tournaments takes place in Galway this weekend when the previously postponed U14 boys and girls competitions go ahead at the NUIG Kingfisher pool.
There is a very healthy Ulster representation in both competitions, with Clonard strongly fancied to add the boys' event to their recently acquired Ulster title. Grads,Brugha and Bangor are also involved, with the seasiders hoping to add to the silver medals they won in the U12 event last week.
Bangor and Newry have joined forces, as have Brugha and Drogheda, to enter teams in the girls' event, while Donegall Diamonds are there on their own. The three home based sides - Tribes, Claddagh and Connemara - are expected to battle it out for the medals.
Cathal Brugha, meanwhile, who won the Irish Senior Cup a few weeks ago, have set a date for the diary for a celebration dinner on Saturday, June 27 in Belfast's Balmoral Hotel. Tickets will soon be available and everyone is welcome.