A Belcoo man has become the first person to swim the length of Lower Lough MacNean raising over £5,000 along the way.

Garry McGovern completed a 4.2km swim of the Lough on Friday, July 12 in one hour and 44 minutes to help raise funds for the Aisling Centre in Enniskillen and North West STOP in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, two charities which offer support to those suffering from mental health issues.

Still coming to terms with whole experience, Garry was delighted with how the challenge progressed.

“The swim went brilliantly. It went far, far better than I was expecting it to go so I am delighted with it, absolutely delighted with it.”

Conditions weren’t ideal with the water being quite choppy when he first entered the lough, but Garry, in his own words “ploughed on” and with the end line in sight and people cheering him on from the shore, he made it all the way.

“My greatest fear going in was the cold. I really just don’t handle cold at all well but the temperature was just beautiful it was really perfect.

“The first third the waves were really choppy and in my head I was like am I going forward at all here and I was too paranoid to look up and see how far I had gone. It was very hard to judge distance.

“I thought I’m not making any progress here, is the boat actually moving, am I just pounding away here to just keep still.

“Also the weeds and the reeds and all the rushes they were a major problem but I just kind of changed my stroke and went slower coming into it and they didn’t pose a problem at all. When I saw all the people at the bank it just lifted me up I just ploughed on through.”

Because of the weeds and rushes, Garry was forced to swim further out into the lough than anticipated and he also swam past his family home, but he knew little of that being so far out in the water.

And finally making it to the other side of the lough and seeing all the people who had come out to support him was a humbling experience for Garry.

“It was unbelievable. It was fantastic. It was such a lift to see everybody there. It was quite embarrassing because I am quite reserved in that respect.

“It was so genuine and everybody there chose to be there and it meant so much to so many people it was a massive lift.

“It was people I have known all my life and I hadn’t seen some of them in 10 or 20 years but having seen them that day it was like someone had pressed paused and then just pressed play and nothing had changed. Everyone was fantastic and it was all hugs and smiles.

“When I was back in home in Dublin on Saturday afternoon the smile was still glued to my face.”

As well as the people on the shore, Garry also had a special word of thanks to the three men who stayed beside him on the boat, Paddy and Ian Corrigan and Aiden Ferguson and made sure he kept on course.

With the swim complete, Garry is still processing the whole experience and he is overwhelmed by how generous people have been with their donations to the two chosen charities.

With over £5,000 raised it as exceeded all expectations and there is still time for people to donate.

“People have been unbelievably generous. Anything at all would have been fantastic but to get over 5000 and still donations are coming in, it’s nuts. Especially when it is two small local charities who don’t get government or state funding it’s a colossal amount of money and to know it is genuinely going to be used and it is going to save peoples lives. It still hasn’t sunk in yet and it is really humbling.”

If you want to donate to either of the charities, there is still time. For the Aisling Centre: localgiving.org/fundraising/MacneanSwim/ and NorthWest STOP: www.idonate.ie/MacneanSwim