Melly and Quinn on Ireland squads for 2020/21 swimming season

Swim Ireland has announced 38 swimmers who will form three cohorts of national squads for the 2020/21 season, including Castlebar natives Cillian Melly and Nicholas Quinn.

The new season will see a change to the structure of Swim Ireland's national squad programme as the performance team plan for the commencement of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games cycle whilst keeping a firm eye on the successful completion of the 2020 (+1) Tokyo Olympics cycle.

The performance team will operate through a three-tiered system encompassing a performance (PE) cohort for Olympic Games 2021 identified athletes (including Melly and Quinn), a performance transition (PT) cohort focussed on both the 2021 and 2024 Olympic Games, and a performance pathway (PP) group with a 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games focus.

The tiering of the programme into three distinct levels will be continued each season across the 2020-2024 cycle into the Paris Olympic Games, with the programme aiming to support athletes as they endeavour to reach their full potential at senior international level.

The performance element of the national squad is spearheaded by 2019 LEN European medallist Shane Ryan, with Ireland’s two strongest performers at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Brendan Hyland and Darragh Greene also amongst those selected.

This group has a strong relay focus as Ireland look to cement one or more relay berths for 2021, with the nation not having achieved qualification for an Olympic relay since 1972.

National performance director Jon Rudd and national senior team head coach Ben Higson will have primary oversight of this group of athletes as Ireland prepare for their Olympic trials in Dublin from April 20 to 24 next year.

The newly identified performance transition cohort features 2019 LEN European Junior and 2019 FINA World Junior finalist Eoin Corby alongside Ireland's strongest performers at junior level over recent years. Ben Higson will also have primary oversight of this group of athletes, some of whom will have the 2021 Olympic Games in mind, with others placing their focus on the forthcoming 2021 FISU World University Games.

The performance pathway cohort of athletes comprises Ireland's brightest current prospects, including 2019 LEN European Junior and 2019 FINA World Junior athlete Amelia Kane, 2019 LEN European Junior athlete Sean Scannell and 2019 European Youth Olympic Festival athlete Ellie McKibbin. National performance pathway manager Andrew Reid will have primary oversight of this group of athletes, with the 2021 LEN European Junior Championships and FINA World Junior Championships the premier focus for this group.

Athletes based outside of Europe would not normally be selected for Ireland’s National Squad on logistical grounds, with Mona McSharry (University of Tennessee, USA), Sean McNicholl (George Tech, USA) and Molly Mayne (Hamilton Aquatics, UAE) meeting the required qualification criteria to gain national squad status in this regard.

The Covid-19 virus disrupted the majority of the 2019/20 long course season, with both domestic and international competitions unable to take place in the March 2020 to August 2020 period. As such, the tried and tested method of considering performances at the Irish Open Championships and an identified summer benchmark meet was not possible in 2020.

The performance team also felt that the utilisation of short course performances from the September 2019 to December 2019 period of the season was not appropriate in identifying the athletes for this programme. As such, a revised selection criteria was adopted for these unprecedented circumstances and will only be utilised for this one particular season.

National performance director Jon Rudd said: “We have strong beliefs and values, and we have high standards and expectations. As such, our national squad allows us to ensure that when we walk into the arena together, we are galvanised, aligned and we possess a collective understanding of what is expected and required of us and from us. This is a very exciting group of athletes and we look forward to working with and for them over the months to come.”

*Pictured above, Cillian Melly competing in the heats of the men's 200m individual medley event at the Irish Short Course Swimming Championships last year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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