Belfast Telegraph

Ronan Keating and fellow star swimmers battle giant jellyfish

By Mike Hornby

Celebrities have told of their battles with giant jellyfish while swimming the Irish Sea in a marathon fundraising effort.

The charity relay for Cancer Research UK saw the famous names, led by boyband idol Ronan Keating, swim the 56 nautical miles (65 land miles) from Holyhead in north Wales to Dublin.

Keating (34), was first off the slipway in his wet suit and flippers at around 9pm on Tuesday night, followed by TV presenter Jenny Frost, who then handed over to Strictly star Pamela Stephenson.

Gadget Show host Jason Bradbury and Olympic medallist swimmer Steve Parry are also taking part.

Speaking during a break, Keating said he was mostly spending his hour-long stints swallowing sea water and avoiding "alien-like" jellyfish.

"I'm not one of the advanced swimmers so I'm concentrating on my swimming, my breathing and keeping my body moving," he added.

"We were warned about the Lion's Mane jellyfish but there are hundreds and it's frightening when they are right there sitting in front of you.

"You gasp and lose your breath but you've just got to keep moving.

"Thank God, we haven't seen any sharks, I'm very happy about that."

At least 30 species of shark are known to pass through the Irish Sea, including the enormous basking shark.

But it's the Lion's Mane, the world's largest species of jellyfish, which has been providing the closest encounters for the swimmers.

Ronan added: "We're pretty much half way across the Irish Sea now.

"It's an amazing feeling to think that at nine o'clock last night we were in Holyhead, it was so daunting. I was a little panicky, but kind of emotional, too.

"I just had to dive in and it was incredible.

"We've talked about it for 12 months but it was finally happening, it was an incredible moment."

Keating hopes to raise over £1m for Cancer Research.

The team is expected to land in Dublin at around 6.30am today.

To follow the progress of the swim, visit www.the-swim.co.uk.

Background

All the celebrity swimmers taking part have loved ones who have had cancer.

Keating, Frost and Stephenson lost their mothers to the disease and Bradbury's brother was diagnosed with skin cancer earlier this year.

Parry (34), found out he had testicular cancer 18 months ago, three weeks after getting married.

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