Swim Ireland’s McCullagh International Meet kicked off at the Bangor Aurora Leisure Centre on Friday last with swimmers preparing for the first major meets of 2018 - the Irish Open Swimming Championships and Commonwealth Games in April. 
The event is named after Dave McCullagh the former director of Irish Swimming who passed away in 2002. 
With qualifying times extremely difficult to achieve the Enniskillen Lakelanders had two swimmers in the main meet along with a third in the newly introduced Age Group Meet.
Having qualified for 1500m Freestyle and the 400m Individual Medley and with his sights set on the 2018 Irish Div 1 Championships, Oisin Mc Manus knew that as an open gala for all ages, the McCullagh gala was not going to yield any medals. 
But as one of the top Irish Long Course events this gala would be a good barometer of his position in the national rankings for the 15-year-old category. Ranked in 11th place in the 1500m Freestyle, Oisin put in a strong performance finishing with a 7 second personal best time of 18:02.10 minutes and a seventh place finish overall. 
Most importantly and what left Oisin feeling great was that whilst every swimmer in front of him was aged from 17-28 years old, at still just two weeks shy of his 15th birthday, he was the fastest of the 15 and 16 years olds competing. 
On day two of the event he achieved another personal best in the 400IM finishing in 12th place having been ranked 18th and again outpacing the other 15-year olds racing. 
So Oisin came away from the McCullagh gala heartened by his results and motivated to train harder knowing that all those early mornings and long hours does bring the results.
Lewis McCartney swam to a last-minute qualification for the event only three weeks ago in the 50m Freestyle. 
Swimming in the same heat as 100m Irish Record holder, Jordan Sloan, and many other top Irish swimmers he had a strong 50m swim with a new PB and although he was outside the finals times, Lewis gained great experience at the top level in Ireland.
Last year Ellie McCartney, now 12, had finished third in the ‘B’ Final but with changes in Swim Ireland was now too young to swim in the main event. 
The governing body had introduced age group heats at 200m distances only, for the afternoon sessions with the finals running alongside the senior finals. 
The young Lakelander had qualified for three events – 200m Individual Medley, 200m Breaststroke on Saturday and 200m Freestyle on Sunday. 
The heats times on Saturday in the IM were extremely close and Ellie had managed to go into the final as top seed. In the Final she swam a great Butterfly and managed a decent Backcrawl to leave her in fifth position at the half way mark – more than 5 seconds behind the leader. 
Once the Breaststroke leg began Ellie began to power through the field turning on to Freestyle in pole position and holding on to the lead to claim the gold medal in a time of 2:32.32. 
Later in the evening Ellie swam as favourite in the 200m Breaststroke to comfortably win her second gold of the Meet by 6 seconds. 
On Sunday the 12-year-old returned to compete in the 200m Freestyle – and swam a new 3 second PB of 2:22.23 to qualify seventh in the Final. 
After talking race strategy with coach Rob Eynon, Ellie took to the block and exceeded all expectations taking another four seconds off here earlier time to finish fourth – missing out on bronze medal by less than a tenth of a second. 
Ellie departed the Meet with two gold medals, three finals and three Irish Summer National Qualification times. 
The coach was most impressed with the 200m Freestyle and the manner in which the young swimmer listened intently for the race tactics and then followed them in the event. 
The Swim Ireland National Performance Director, Jon Rudd, took time out to speak with Ellie and congratulate her on her accomplishments during the Meet. 
Next weekend the swimmers have a weekend off while the parents have an opportunity to enjoy a night at the Fundraising Bake Off which will take place at the Westville Hotel on Saturday night.