05 Oct 2022

GALLERY: The 'dream has come true' for FinSwim's Henry O'Donnell on round Ireland swim

Round Ireland swimmer makes official stop at Malin Head

Coming ashore at Portmore Harbour in Malin Head, Round Ireland Finswim Expedition 2020's intrepid, Henry O'Donnell, said the response had been “phenomenal”.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Henry, who is attempting the first ever circumnavigation of Ireland on a solo fin swim, said the people he had met were “fantastic”.

Henry added: “Malin Head was amazing. The people there were so, so helpful. We stayed with a lady called Mary Houton a couple of nights, instead of staying on the boat, because it was very, very rough. Mary sponsored our stay and her family were amazing and very helpful with the logistics.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to visit Malin Head Coast Guard and the team up there, including the first ever female member of the team who recently started work there.

“I also gave a talk to the little ones in the Malin Head Community Centre It was absolutely amazing. We had some fun with the little ones. Talking about octopuses and jelly fishes and sharks,” said Henry.

Henry revealed prior to his current fin swim, he had undertaken expeditions all over the world.

He said: “I led the first ever relay swim around the coast of Ireland in 2006. However, I always was focused on attempting a solo effort at that very same thing, even before 2006. Now the dream has come true, after four years of training. The event is being run for two national charities: Water Safety Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society.

“We started out on Thursday, September 17 from Carrickfin Blue Flag Beach beside Donegal Airport. That day was absolutely amazing. It was like a blessing in disguise. There was Mediterranean type weather at Carrickfin, Caribbean type weather and also the wind was favourable.

“The plan on the day was just to get away. We chose that particular day and time to keep the crowds down because of the Covid-19 regulations, so there would not be large numbers there.

“It was absolutely perfect and instead of getting three or four miles that day, we got just over eight miles. It could not have been a better start. Since then, we have had a mixture of good and bad and indifferent days and sea state and conditions, which I have been in training for for the last four years and pretty much a lifetime of experience on the sea,” said Henry.

Henry's fin swim is not for the faint-hearted. He stressed that safety was paramount.

He added: “We do it all in safety, with a fantastic safety crew. We have a lifeguard onboard all the time. My daughter, Gráinne, is one of the senior lifeguards on the expedition. She is a Water Safety Ireland lifeguard. We have a diver on board and also the skipper is fantastic.

“We also have a crew onboard the vessel, the Tor Dearg, which is the Tory Island Fast Ferry. They are sponsoring the expedition. It is huge sponsorship. I would not have been able to undertake the event without a vessel of that calibre.

“It proved its worth off the North West Coast, especially off the Garvan Isles, where we had atrocious sea conditions. When I am not swimming, we are servicing the vessel or working on the vessel making sure everything is OK.

“The response has been phenomenal. People are fantastic and we had TG4 and RTÉ at Portmore in Malin. Highland Radio, Raidió na Gaeltachta and the BBC have also picked up on Finswim 2020. I am hoping to visit Derry if it is possible in the next few days, before swimming from Glengad to Portrush and Portstewart,” said Henry.

The progress of Henry's FinSwim 2020 can be monitored via the tracker on the event's website:

Henry said: “If it is not running, we are not in the water. I have allocated one year from September 17, 2020 to September 17, 2021 to complete the swim.

“If anyone would like to help the expedition, in terms of logistics or sponsoring accommodation, we welcome support or assistance. We can be contacted by phone: 00353 86 8638511 or email:,” said Henry O'Donnell. Donegal Live wishes Henry well in his endeavours.

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