Why this Bangor swimmer is hopeful he's part of an Irish swimming revolution
Talented teenager Conor Ferguson believes Irish swimming is about to enter a golden age.
Ferguson, a European junior and world junior medallist in the summer, has entered his first year as a senior swimmer having made a surprise move from Ellesmere College in Cheshire to the High Performance set-up in Dublin, which is headed by the experienced Jon Rudd and his new team of coaches.
Bangor's Ferguson, who will be part of the Irish team heading to the European short course championships in Copenhagen ahead of representing Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games in April, believes the new regime in Dublin's National Aquatic Centre is just what he and his fellow athletes need.
"I felt I had to make the change from Ellesmere College in the summer. Alan Bircher was doing a great job for me but there were other little things that I felt could be better and when I sat down and spoke to the new High Performance director John Rudd and John Watson, the strength and conditioning coach and manager, they showed me the world-class set-up they were putting together," said Ferguson.
"To be honest I didn't think there would be a place in Ireland that could take me to the level I want to go, which is to become a world-class swimmer, but that has changed now.
"This is a world-class set-up and these are now very exciting times for Irish swimming.
"Jon Rudd has brought great experience to Irish swimming having been at such a good club as Plymouth Leander and bringing through swimmers like Ruta Meilutyte, an Olympic champion and Ben Proud who is at the top of the sport as well.
"There couldn't be any better people running the new set-up.
"I know that the people before him had the best of intentions but I feel those in place now can deliver what is needed.
"The mentality is changing from just wanting to get out of heats at major championships to wanting to win medals."
Ferguson has already qualified for the Commonwealth Games, while for many next week's Ulster Championships will be the last chance to qualify for the Gold Coast.