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McMahon - the McIlroy of the pool

Sycerika McMahon just cannot stop making headlines and she was at it again yesterday when claiming gold at the Irish Open and Youth championships in Dublin.

McMahon was quite sensational at the European junior championships last week, picking up bronze and making a host of finals in only her first year at that level, on the back of medalling at last year's Youth Olympics.

Indeed, such is her natural talent some might say she is now the Rory McIlroy of Irish swimming.

The 15-year-old, who competes for Leander, took gold in the Open event of the 50m breaststroke with ease, touching in 32.85 — almost a full second ahead of visiting South African Kelly Gunnell, 33.74 and more will surely follow over the weekend. Bronze went to City of Belfast's Alison Todd who was a tenth of a second ahead of Bangor's Ashleigh Hyland.

The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games team is expected to be announced just after these championships and head coach Nelson Lindsay has no doubt just how special McMahon is.

“I would say in my time in swimming I have not seen a more talented swimmer at this age. She's the best prospect in Ireland,” said Lindsay. “Considering what she did at the Europeans, making finals and getting a medal — in swimming that is outstanding.

“Grainne Murphy, who won Ireland's first gold medal at the European juniors last year, didn't get a medal in her first year and she is obviously an exceptional talent because in her second year she won four medals.

“Sycerika from an early age was always beating swimmers in an age group above her, but you have to be brought along the right way and Bobby Madine has done that.

“She has a very, very bright future and it's obvious that she has exceptional talent and there is a lot more to come from her.”

There was further success for Ulster swimmers with Larne's Conor Leaney taking gold in the men's 200m freestyle.

Leaney came home in a time of 1:52.98, just the kind of performance he would have wanted ahead of the European Championships in Budapest next month.

The women's 200m free went to Lisburn's Bethany Carson who held off the challenge of Marine Bacchetta to win in 2:06.00, 0.37 ahead of the French woman with Galway's Dairne Ryan third in 2:06.60.

Michael Dawson, of Ards, was the first Irish swimmer home in the 50m breaststroke with 29.48, but had to settle for silver behind South African Kyle MacMillan.

There was a return to form for Olympian Aisling Cooney as she cruised to victory in the 100m backstroke in 1:02.79 ahead of Enniskillen's Chelsey Wilson. The Dubliner missed out on qualification for the Europeans, but this was much more impressive.

Belfast Telegraph