Eric Kinsella was the youngest competitor, at 13, the year he completed his first Liffey Swim. Now he is chairman of Jones Engineering Group, the lead sponsor of the annual event which takes place this weekend.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Liffey Swim in 1919, Mr Kinsella and his wife Barbara have commissioned a special commemorative medal to mark the event.
Designed by Irish artist Robert Ballagh, the solid silver medal features Anna Livia Plurabelle, one of the 14 heads featured on the Custom House and a character in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake who is said to be the embodiment of the river Liffey. The medal also features a map of the Liffey flowing through the city.
It will be presented to the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s races. Six hundred competitors will take part across the two races this year, with the men’s event starting at noon on Saturday from Watling Street Bridge and the women racing one hour later along the 2,200m (almost 1.38 miles) course.
“In this, the 100th anniversary year of the race, I wanted to commemorate the achievements of this year’s winners in a unique and special way,” said Mr Kinsella. “Robert has designed a beautiful medal which will be treasured by those who win one this Saturday.”
He said Jones Engineering, which was already an established company when the race was first swum, having been founded in 1890, was proud to sponsor the event. And he praised the team of volunteers who organise it each year.
“It is a fantastic tradition in our city and one which we want to see continue for many years to come,” said Mr Kinsella.
Explaining the thinking behind his design, Mr Ballagh said: “The Liffey Swim finishes each year in front of Custom House and Anna Livia looks down benignly on all the swimmers as they complete their race.
“She also adorns O’Connell Bridge and all who swim under her, so I thought it fitting that she featured on the medal being presented to the leading swimmers in this year’s race.”