Alannah Swims to Success with NUIG Elite Athlete Scholarship

Alannah receives her Sports Personality of the Year Award
Alannah receives her Sports Personality of the Year Award

Swimming has opened so many doors and given me so many experiences that I can carry with me for the rest of my life. Being part of the Ulster Senior Squad and Irish Junior Squad I have travelled to many places. I have represented my province 5 times internationally bringing me to Luxembourg, England and Scotland, these amazing experiences have meant I have met many wonderful people along the way and even some talented sportsmen and women such as the legendary Ian Thorpe.

Training with these squads has helped me make close friends from all over Ireland and one of my most memorable experiences was training with the Ulster Schools Squad in Tenerife where I captained the girls team. This then lead me on to captaining the Ulster School Squad in the Irish Interprovincial Championships representing my school St.Louis Monaghan.

Swimming has also lead me to make the massive decision at 16yrs old to leave home in order to access both studies and swimming in Monaghan. I can honestly say this is one of the best decisions I ever made. Working with one of the best coach’s in the country Eamon O Hara and having made some life long friends, leaving this year to go to college in NUIG was extremely hard but the next step must be taken.

My commitment to training and studying helped me gain a ‘Performance Points Elite Athlete Scholarship’ in NUI Galway. This scholarship provides me with a grant to cover swimming costs, pays for my swimming fees, provides me with strength and conditioning and a nutritionist. This scholarship recognises the struggle of studies while training as an elite athlete and therefore also provided me with 40 extra points for my chosen course, Biomedical Science. My experiences has also helped me in adapting to college life and making new friends and meeting fellow swimmers.

Alannah in action in the Irish Age Group Championships National Finals
Alannah in action in the Irish Age Group Championships National Finals

Swimming has given me great pride to be able to say that I have been Irish Division 1 champion twice, Ulster Senior Champion twice, I have numerous provincial titles and medaled at an Irish Senior Event at 16yrs old. I truly believe that with hard work and commitment anyone can reap these benefits especially when it’s recognised by others for example when I was awarded “Young Sports Personality of 2012” due to all my sporting achievements that year. I too have been awarded with Juvenile Sports Personality of the Year and Fermanagh Herald Sports Personality of the Month, these honourable awards has really boosted me as a person and makes everything worthwhile because you know others are appreciating the work you have out in too.

I take great pride in representing my club Sliabh Beagh at provincial and national competitions. There is no better feeling in the world than swimming a final, seeing your name among the winners, looking at the pride on your parents face and knowing your team mates cheered you ever inch of the way.

But things aren’t always easy you have to learn to cope with the knock backs too. Swimming can sometimes be a lonely sport, when you step up on that starting block your on your own! This definitely builds your character, gives you confidence, not afraid to face challenges on your own. There is nothing more nerve wrecking than waiting on a final, the adrenaline and the tension. You have to learn to focus, channel the nerves, think of nothing only the race.

I would recommend swimming to anyone cause of the unbelievable experiences it has provided to me. I believe there is a lot yet to come, I have my sight set on the commonwealths 2017 in Australia, having a goal like that makes training so much easier and worthwhile.

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