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Coach Paul Dennis driving Bangor to new heights

By David Kelly

They say coaches should never go back but Paul Dennis believes second time around will be even better.

Dennis settled back quickly into the Bangor swimming hot-seat and within a few months he was transforming the organisation and mentality of the club.

Having been head coach at the club for over a decade, Dennis moved Down Under where he worked at the South Australia High Performance centre for three years. But now he is back at the north Down club and seeking to make them the most powerful outfit in Ulster swimming.

Dennis, who will be poolside for the Ulster championships at Laganvalley Leisureplex which start on Friday, believes the knowledge he gained from his time in Australia can have a positive effect on Bangor.

"Being in Australia certainly opened my eyes, you are immediately struck by the high expectations and the demands for excellence from everyone," said Dennis.

"There's a real professionalism in everything they do, everyone acts in a professional manner - they all want the same thing, those standards and expectations of excellence seem to be ingrained in kids and the coaches.

"You can see it backed up by the education system. Sport in Australia is a real priority, it is given a much greater place and value and all the kids, the volunteers, the coaches... they are all made aware they are part of something special, something that is of value.

"Of course they have a greater pool of talent to draw from but nevertheless we can learn from their attitude.

"We're in a period of transition at the moment, for example we are now holding swimmers to their respective age bands. Whereas before a big 11 or 12-year-old who might be fast would be sent to swim with the elite group, we are now keeping them with their age group because in the past too often they would miss out on critical skills.

"It's easy to look for short term results but we want to be skills-based so when they get to 18 they have what they need to perform at the highest level."

While the swimmers are buying into the new regime, naturally there are some parents who are a little sceptical but Dennis has no doubt that the long term results will speak for themselves.

The club will have a 28-strong representation at the Ulster championships but for Commonwealth Games swimmers Gemma Kane and Jordan Sloan, the focus is more on 2015.

"For Gemma and Jordan and the older swimmers we are looking at the Ulster and Irish short course championships as part of our training for the long course season," added Dennis.

"Last weekend we sent a group to the Scottish Grand Prix and they did well, Jordan won the 50m backstroke."

Bangor have also added Scotland's top breaststroker Jamie Graham to their club.

"Jamie placed fourth at the Scottish trials but with Ross Murdoch and Andy Jamieson in front of him it was always going to be tough. He has grandparents living in Bangor so he is based here and will be switching his allegiance to Ireland. He's going through the FINA process," added Dennis.

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