Sun makes for carnival buzz in Dublin city as 500 take on Liffey Swim

The sun was shining strongly in Dublin as more than 500 people took part in the 103rd edition of the Dublin city Liffey Swim on Saturday.

With temperatures reaching into the 20s, 219 participants lined out in the women’s event and 303 in the men’s, according to the event organisers.

Brian Byrne, from Carlow, said he and his brother John were on the lookout for some celebratory drinks being passed around by those who gathered outside the Custom House after completing the race. “If you see any whiskey send it our direction,” he joked.

The brothers said many racers took out hip flasks after finishing in an attempt to clear bacteria that may have been swallowed with the river water. “You can celebrate with the whiskey as well – it’s two birds with one stone,” said John. “You hear about the can of Coke as well – that’s a bit of an old wives’ tale.”

This year’s edition was the first time Brian had taken part in the race. He said he had begun participating in similar events as part of John’s birthday celebrations. “It’s my brother’s 40th, so he roped all the brothers into swimming this year. We did a big race down in Turkey on Wednesday, we just came back last night.”

“It’s all part of it,” says John, of the busy race schedule. “This is an iconic swim. It’s the end of the season, it’s a nice way to finish it off. The weather makes all the difference, it turns it into a carnival atmosphere.”

Eileen Cantwell has been competing in the Liffey Swim since 1994. She said she has completed 28 editions of the race. “The first one was the best, the thrill of doing it,” she said. “You feel like you have the freedom of the city.”

Ms Cantwell explained that she had to complete six other races to qualify for the Liffey Swim, adding that she trains “all year round” in the sea and in the pool.

She said the Liffey’s water had a “metallic taste”, something she also noticed when taking part in a race in Cork. “I’ve done the Lee this year and that’s metallic as well, I don’t know why,” she added.

Ms Cantwell said she plans to keep on racing “until I’m 100”, but that taking part “gets harder and harder every year”.

Fiona Stafford, another participant, said the good weather had made the wait for the start of the race easier to bear. “You don’t have to wear your black plastic sack to keep the heat in!”

Justine O’Flanagan, who races on the same team as Ms Stafford, praised the post-race arrangements. “When you come out [of the Liffey] it’s really well organised – you’re straight into the Dublin Fire Brigade showers, you’re warming up then.”

Ms O’Flanagan said the water conditions were good, adding there was some tidal assistance and that “the water wasn’t really going against you”.

“The water tasted clean enough,” joked Ms Stafford. “I didn’t mean to swallow any. It gets saltier and saltier as you’re coming down towards the sea.”

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