Portadown, Lurgan and Camlough mums relay swim entire length of Lough Neagh in 12 hours

Three women, from Portadown, Lurgan and Camlough, swam the entire length of Lough Neagh in a relay team.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 3:54 pm

Andrea Judge from Portadown, Alison O’Hagan from Lurgan and Lauren O’Malley from Camlough (originally from the USA) undertook the mammoth feat last month.

It was a tough 12 hours for the three girls who are all busy mums and work full time.

Starting just below Toome Castle at 7.13am on September 19, the trio arrived at the shores of Kinnego Marina in Lurgan 12 hours and three minutes later.

Portadown woman Andrea Judge with Lurgan woman Alison O'Hagan and Lauren O'Malley, originally from Boston but now living in Camlough. The trio swam the length of Lough Neagh in a relay completing the feat in 12 hours and three minutes.

Andrea revealed: “We faced changing undercurrents, shallow waters and, of course, some local wildlife!

“As a team though we pulled together to achieve our goal and we are delighted to be the first team of three females to complete the swim.”

And they were boosted by a wealth of support from their families and friends in the Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers.

Andrea added: “We also had great expertise and assistance throughout the swim from our amazing crew, Chris Walsh as our pilot and John Williams as co-pilot.

Portadown woman Andrea Judge with Lurgan woman Alison O'Hagan and Lauren O'Malley, originally from Boston but now living in Camlough. The trio swam the length of Lough Neagh in a relay completing the feat in 12 hours and three minutes.

“Zara Williams was invaluable as part of the crew and of course, Dr David Rogers who officiated the swim as the official ILDSA Observer.”

Andrea, who is 44 and has two girls Caitlin (19) and Nuala (15) is no stranger to the swimming world. A former pupil of Drumcree College, she started swimming when she was around seven years old.

She revealed: “It was after I had an near drowning accident in Craigavon Lakes!

“My father (Brian Judge) did swim as he was a member of the local triathlon club so he signed myself and my brother Mark up for swimming lessons in Portadown pool which led us to swim for Portadown Amateur Swimming Club.

“I then followed my father and my three brothers to Lurgan ASC where my dad coached.

“I was coached in Lurgan by the legend Dorothy Johnson who, in fact, is still coaching me in the pool and open water today .

“I stopped swimming at around 14 years old but my dad stilled coached and my brothers kept up the swimming which eventually led them to open water swimming!

“My brother Chris a few years back started an open water skins only dunking group in Lough Neagh and, out of curiosity and hearing all these fantastic health benefits, I turned up and gave it a go.

“I fell in love with open water swimming and headed back to the pool to my coach Dorothy who has pushed and encouraged us all with every stroke we take

“Though I stopped when I was 14 and I came back for around one year when I was 29 then stopped again and came back around 2-3 years ago.”

Along side Andrea swam Alison O’Hagan, a 55 year old Lurgan native who has four children aged between 15 and 31.

The former pupil at St Mary’s Primary School and St St Michael’s Grammer took up swimming at Dot’s Swim Camp. An Essential Skills Lecturer at the Southern Regional College, Alison is also a member of the Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers for open water swimming.

The third woman to take part in the relay was 42-year-old mother of two boys Lauren O’Malley.

Lauren, who grew up in Boston, has been living inNI since she studied at Queens University nearly 20 years ago.

Lauren said: “I was a swimmer in high school but stopped after graduation and only returned to swimming over the past few years.

“My transition to open water swimming began at Camlough Lake where a lot of local athletes train. Once I started in the lake, I also began sea swimming and have never looked back. I love open water now.”

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