Olympic Rower to keep up tradition and ‘Brave the Cold’ for COPE Galway’s Annual Christmas Swim

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Olympic Rower to keep up tradition and ‘Brave the Cold’ for COPE Galway’s Annual Christmas Swim


“Since 2011, I’ve been taking part in the COPE Galway Christmas swim with the crew I rowed with as a Junior in Galway Rowing Club.”

So says Olympic medallist and Moycullen native, Fiona Murtagh, who has been dipping in Salthill annually ever since, with fellow rowers, friends and family. Speaking from her winter training camp in Sabaudia, Italy this week, Fiona remarked, “As life becomes so busy, and friends, including myself now, reside outside of Galway, we may not see each other from one Christmas to the next. Getting to see everyone at the swim on Christmas Day has become a tradition I look forward to each year.” 

For over 30 years, thousands of swimmers have made it their Christmas tradition to wear the COPE Galway t-shirt and “brave the cold” in the bracing Galway waters to raise awareness and funds for the local charity. For the past 3 years, people can also register to “swim where you are” anywhere in the world from the 20-26 December.

Fiona Murtagh recalls the original foursome back in 2011 – her junior rowing coach Rory O’Brien and his daughter Meabh would collect Fiona and fellow teammate Ruth Cummins at around 10am Christmas Day. “We’d drive to Blackrock for the swim, then stop for coffee on the way home. As the years progressed, other teammates would either join us for the swim or come meet us at Blackrock to say hello. It became a lovely opportunity to meet friends on Christmas Day, while supporting such a wonderful organisation as COPE Galway.”

The COPE Galway Christmas Swim raises essential funds that have a direct and positive impact on the lives of vulnerable families and individuals in Galway. Last year, COPE Galway supported 2,885 people in Galway city and county across their homeless, domestic abuse and senior support services.

COPE Galway’s Lynia O’Brien, who organises this annual community event said, “We never cease to be bowled over by the local support for the Christmas Swim. This year, we see more work teams are registering, along with the traditional family, friend and school groups, to take on the challenge and brave the cold so others don’t have to. As Fiona indicated, facing the cold and wet together has become a great bonding experience! It’s also a reminder that while Christmas day is about being with people you love, it’s also about remembering and supporting the increasing numbers of people in our community who are struggling this winter.”

You can register online for the COPE Galway Christmas Swim to “swim where you are” any time between 20-26 December or to attend a “wave” at the Blackrock event on Christmas Day between 9am and 1pm. To register and for further information and safety tips please visit copegalway.ie/swim  or phone 091 77 87 50   


Contact:               Lynia O’Brien, 085 859 78 98        lobrien@copegalway.ie     


COPE Galway Background Information  

COPE Galway is a local Galway organisation whose vision is for a community where every person is valued, cared for and supported at every stage of life. In 2021, COPE Galway supported 2,885 people across the city and county through their services for homelessness, domestic abuse and senior support.

COPE Galway is responsive to the needs of people in our community who struggle with the challenges of homelessness and domestic abuse and supports older people towards healthy and active ageing.

COPE Galway has been delivering essential social services across Galway City and County for almost 50 years. They currently offer support services with a team of 180 employees and 200 volunteers.   

COPE Galway makes a difference by empowering people, creating change and strengthening communities.  

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