ST PAUL’S Swimming Club played a key role in the development of Fiona Doyle’s swimming career.
Fiona Doyle’s grandfather, Michael, a Dublin man who came to work in Limerick in the mid-1960s, was one of the main driving forces behind the establishment of the club.
Doyle , who settled in the newly developed area of Dooradoyle identified the need for a swimming club for local young people.
In the spring of 1974 he organised a meeting for parents in the local St Paul’s National School and as a result St Paul’s Swimming Club was born.
The club logo of the cross over the waves linked the club to the saint himself – St Paul of The Seas.
Michael approached Paddy Darcy in Limerick County Council, secured pool time in the newly built Roxboro Swimming Pool, along with a promise that a bill for same would not be issued for a few months until the club was up and running.
Swimming began on the first Tuesday of September 1974 and after the third Tuesday, the club was overwhelmed with applicants and Michael Doyle secured the help of Raymond O’Hagan and Brid Ryan as instructors and Michael Murphy to ‘look after the money’.
Club membership catered for kids from aged four to early teens. Brid herself went on to become the longest serving instructor in the club – 35 years.
In the spring of 1975 the club held a sponsored walk and Michael Doyle secured sponsorship from local businesses raising IR£440.
Two more teaching/coaching hours were booked on Thursday nights and with the addition of Kevin Dobson and Tony McMahon as instructors, the club continued to grow.
Michael and Sheila Mulcair, who were heavily involved in Askeaton Swimming Club, also joined St Pauls in the early years bringing with them many swimmers from Askeaton. Maurice English, Cathal McCarthy, Joan and Paddy Mulcahy and Michael Noonan (present Minister for Finance) were all instructors in the club at various stages.
Joe and Mary Murtagh and Teresa Dundon were heavily involved in the club in administrative roles over many years.
Club Galas were held annually with swimmers from the club taking part in other club and regional galas.
In 1988, Limerick Swimming Club was formed to develop the competitive aspect of swimming in the region.
Over its lifetime St Pauls has taught thousands of young people how to swim, many of whom have gone on to compete successfully at regional, national and international level.
More have become lifeguards and swim teachers themselves, many of them within the club. The life skill of swimming has enabled countless others to enjoy participating in various other water sports.
The club suffered a setback with the closing of Roxboro pool in that it was reduced to only one training night in its new home in Bawnmore.
However, with a membership of almost 100 young people and a teaching and administrative team of 20, the club continues to teach young people the skill of swimming in a family friendly environment where all involved giving of their time voluntarily.
Club members can rightly feel proud when Fiona Doyle competes in the Olympics this weekend.