GAA scrapheap to Irish champion


Under pressure, Gerard Curran admits with modesty that he would “love to think” he’d have been in last year’s All-Ireland winning Donegal squad.

But his hopes of inter county glory were shattered at just 19 years old when he was forced to hang up his boots due to injury. Little did he realise that he’d one day win an All-Ireland title, a feat he achieved in Irish Long Distance Swimming Association 17km Championship last month. A remarkable achievement given the fact, he’d only learned to swim four years earlier.

Gerard’s rise to the pinnacle of Irish long distance swimming has been swift, much to the surprise of his rivals, many of whom have been swimming competitively since childhood. The 29 year-old was the first Derry man to win the challenging Lough Erne event since its inception in 1968 and did so just a fortnight after setting a new course record in a successful defence of his Warrior of the Sea 6k title in Sligo.

Ten year’s on from the injury that ended his GAA days, the St Mary’s College lab technician - who married wife Catherine this summer - is on top of his game once again. However, he’ll never forget the devastation of being all of a sudden dumped on the football scrap heap. “At that time All I wanted to do was play football. I slipped a disc in my back, at L5S1 - I tried to continue and played on for a while but I was crocked after every game and it was affecting my ability. I had to call it day and that was hard.”

Although from Templegrove in Derry, Gerard played his club football with Burt after “getting around” the parish rule with the help of a relative who lived across the border. As a result he was available for selection for the Donegal intercounty panel. “I played on the same Donegal minor team as Karl Lacey and the two McGees, Neil and Eamon. I’d love to think that if I was still playing today, I would be on the team with them.” He was delighted to see his former teammates lift the Sam Maguire Cup in Croke Park. “It was fantastic to see them win the All-Ireland title last year.”

Gerard underwent an operation on his back in 2005 and a doctor suggested that he take up swimming as part of his rehabilitation. “It took a lot of time before I got going and I really only started swimming in 2009 when I decided to take part in a charity swimathon. I was knocking out about 40 or so lengths at a time in the pool as training. I didn’t swim in the swimming lane, I wasn’t confident enough for that but I did start pacing myself against the swimmers in the lane and soon discovered that I could keep up. Turning in the pool never suited me with my injury so I thought that open water swimming might be better.”

Gerard then signed up for the Swilly Swim in 2009 and joined the open water swimmers of North West Triathlon Club.

He says that with the coaching of Lean Mallet and “mentoring” from George Meenan, Paddy Bradley, John Coyle, Paul Hyndman and Philip Bradley there was no going back.