Kelleher sets junior record


AFTER the final session of the four-day British short-course swimming championships in Sheffield's Ponds Forge there is little doubt that Irish swimming is not only healthy but thriving.

And it is blessed with two excellent 14-year-old backstrokers in Niamh Cawley of Claremorris and Lee Kelleher of Millfield. During the weekend Cawley set two Irish junior backstroke records, over 1100 and 200 metres. Yesterday she was baulked in her bid for a hat-trick of national records by Kelleher.

Cork-born Kelleher, who now trains with former Olympic medallist Paul Howe at Millfield Public School in Somerset, set a new Irish junior record in the 50 metres backstroke, finishing sixth in 30.40 seconds.

This erased Niamh O'Connor's eight-year-old Irish record of 30.67 secs.

Cawley was far from unhappy to be relegated to eighth place in a senior final in 30.81 seconds.

Adrian O'Connor of New Ross - Niamh O'Connor's older brother - who lost three records over the weekend, lacked his usual backstroke sparkle.

Yesterday he missed the final of the 200 metres backstroke. Adam Ruckwood, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Birmingham, won in a world class time of one minute 56.70 secs.

O'Connor's consolation was a win in the B final in two minutes 1.99 seconds, well adrift of his own Irish record of one minute 59.71 seconds.

Ger Doyle of New Ross, the newly-appointed Irish national swimming coach, said: "We've done very well. Now we must charge our batteries and look forward to the major long-course meets in Britain and Europe in our preparations for the European Championships in Seville next year.

He would not be drawn on the issue, but Doyle, who will be in charge until the Sydney Olympic Games in the year 2000, will be the only national coach not to have access to a long-course (50-metre) swimming pool in his own country.