At a meeting in late February 2013 between Peter Banks, Swim Ireland National Performance Director and Cork Performance Squad organisers and coaches Richard Cassidy, Tom Cross and Deirdre Cunningham, it was agreed that this squad would now work under the Swim Ireland Performance umbrella and henceforth be known as the Swim Ireland-Cork Performance Squad. This group, which was most recently designated the Cork Regional Performance Squad, was started at Christmas 2011 with the aim of improving the standard of Cork City and County competitive swimming, by bringing the best swimmers together to train. From its initiation with 13 swimmers from Dolphin and Sundays Well Swimming clubs, it has been based in the Brookfield Leisure Centre 25m pool. Initial qualifying times were based on percentage additions to existing Munster Regional 200m and longer distance Long Course times and until summer 2012 the squad had one 2 hour session each week, and was jointly funded by the two Cork city clubs, serving as a high quality addition to club sessions. During that time several of the club coaches participated and there were always three or more coaches involved, all working on a voluntary basis (a situation which continues to the present). The squad was a great success and by summer 2012, with the addition of competitors from Mallow and Clonakilty, had grown to 26 swimmers between the ages of 12 and 18. Then, a nominal fee for the 2012/13 season was collected from squad members to pay for gear etc..
At that stage Brookfield offered to become officially involved and to provide free pool and gym facilities. An official launch of this partnership was held in Brookfield in October 2012, attended by more than 200 people including squad members and coaches, parents and club officials, and local politicians. Guests of honour included the two previous swimming Olympians from Cork, Brian Clifford and Deirdre Sheehan and two recent Olympians, the walker Robert Heffernan and his wife Marian, the runner, as well as members of the Cork Hurling and Football teams. The event was compered by Marty Morrisey of RTE (see photograph). One of the speakers was Peter Banks of Swim Ireland who warmly applauded this development. The launch served to highlight the squad’s activities and also its links with the Brookfield Leisure Centre. Motivation for squad members was further increased by a visit from Sonia O’Sullivan, who very generously conducted a question and answer session with the swimmers and coaches during a trip to Cork, and also by a gym and pool session with ex-World Championship swimmer Lee Kelleher.
Instead of stopping all training during July and August, which had become the norm in Cork in recent years, the once-a-week squad sessions continued for those months, with the result that swimmers commenced the new season in much better condition, an advantage highlighted by many PBs and podium positions in autumn Short Course competitions. It was then decided that three weekend sessions (5 hours in the pool and two hours on land conditioning) would be available for the squad during the 2012/2013 season, augmenting some 10 hours in the pool and associated land conditioning available at club level. Squad members are expected to attend all of these sessions each week, giving them the opportunity to rapidly advance to top National level. This approach is working and will now be advanced further by introducing new qualifying times that directly relate to the 2012/13 Swim Ireland National Performance Squad times. They are set as percentage additions to NPS times and will enable accurate monitoring of progress towards the aim of as many Cork Swimmers as possible reaching NPS times, allowing NPC training and possible inclusion in National teams. Last year four squad swimmers, Emma Cassidy and Josh McMahon of Sundays Well and Tara Desmond and Niamh Moloney of Dolphin achieved NPS times. However the new NPS times are harder particularly for older swimmers and only one swimmer Eamon Doyle of Dolphin has qualified so far.
The organisers, squad members and clubs warmly welcome the generous participation by Brookfield Leisure Centre and now with official endorsement for Swim Ireland will work to restore Cork swimmers to among the best in the country. Quarterly meetings between Swim Ireland and the CPS organisers are planned. Other issues being considered are the inclusion of a Cork Development squad largely for younger swimmers, involvement with University College Cork and its new elite scholarship programme, and the participation in monthly Long Course training in the University of Limerick pool as part of a Munster Development Squad.