Clarecastle’s Brendan McGrath was recently honoured as a Life Governor of Water Safety Ireland at their annual awards ceremony for his contribution to life saving education.
Brendan, who holds a degree in psychology and several diplomas, including one in sports psychology, became a lifesaving instructor in Miltown Malbay in 1973 whilst working as a lifeguard. He has since worked as a Munster coach, with the Irish squads, as a national coach and in lifesaving as part of the Irish team in various European and World Championships since 2004.
Crossing the border from Ennis to Clarecastle 40 years ago, Brendan remembers growing up on Clonroad and first being acquainted with lifesaving at Ballyalla Lake at the age of 10, before Ennis had its first pool, which was later founded in October 1969.
“Swimming was a bit of a trend on our road. I wasn’t the best swimmer at the time. It was all part of the Red Cross before that became the Water Safety Association. The structures are much better now, which I helped put in place here in Clare. It is nice to be honoured with the award and recognised,” he stated.
Despite structures being dictated by a national organisation, Brendan felt that Clare has looked beyond Ireland and got very good at competitions with a lot of international success. Complacency was never a factor in his philosophy. He believed that if “the structure is good, you should be winning regularly.” Beginning in the late 1980s and 1990s, Clare began to win everything.
Even to today, he holds immense pride for both swimming and surf life saving in Clare, referencing Rory McEvoy’s recent bid for the Tokyo Olympics and Shannon’s Chris Bryan, the first Irish athlete to qualify for both European and World championships in Open Water Events. COVID, he stated, has opened the public’s eyes to the benefit of open water swimming.
Brendan endorses the importance of water safety this summer, with hundreds of people flocking to the many “beautiful beaches and areas in Clare.” Coaching swimming to the highest level, he also advises all parents to get their kids involved in swimming lessons “as it is such an important life skill.”
For Brendan, local pride is hugely important and the award bestowed upon him is a huge honour. “I would like to thank two former Instructors of mine who have been a great influence on my lifesaving side, they are Tony Lynch from Ennis and Tom Moloney from Clarecastle.”
John Shannon of Clarecastle and Caitriona McMahon from Ennis were also acknowledged for their contributions to Lifesaving Sport in Ireland.