Dublin City Liffey Swim

The Dublin City Liffey Swim (Irish: Snámh na Life, Bhaile Átha Cliath) is one of the most famous open sea races throughout the world.  It was first run in 1920 when it was devised by Bernard Fagan an engineer in Dublin Corporation to show the citizens the good quality of the water in the Liffey.

The Dublin City Liffey Swim is unique in that Dublin is the only capital country in Europe to have a swimming race through the middle of the city.  The Dublin City Liffey Swim is the highlight of the open sea swimming season and in particular for the native Dubliners there is something special about being able to swim down the Liffey in early September.  This also provides a great spectacle for the Dublin public who line the quays, boardwalks and bridges along the mile and a quarter course to catch a glimpse of this unique event.

Race Course

Swimmers will swim 2,200 metres downstream underneath the key bridges of Dublin City:

  • Rory O’Moore Bridge
  • James Joyce Bridge
  • Liam Mellow Bridge
  • Father Mathew Bridge
  • O’Donvan Rossa Bridge
  • Grattan Bridge
  • Millenium Bridge
  • Liffey Bridge (Halfpenny Bridge)
  • O’Connell Bridge
  • Butt Bridge
  • Rosie Hackett Bridge
  • Loop Line Bridge

The Liffey Swim is a family event.  Over the years many families have competed in the Liffey Swim with father and son, Grandfather and Grandson, Mother and daughter etc.  In 2014 there were 9 parents competing with their children.  We have all ages and all levels of ability competing in the Liffey Swim with the youngest swimmer aged just 13 and the oldest swimmers in their mid seventies.  Many swimmers have competed in the Liffey over twenty, thirty, forty and fifty years in a row.

The Dublin City Liffey Swim is regarded as an Open Sea Race as for much of the race swimmers are battling against an incoming tide and are swimming in salt water.


The first Liffey Swim took place on 22 July 1920. Bernard Fagan was the first to organise the race. Fagan was a swimmer and became a public health analyst for Dublin Corporation in 1923. The race was swum at high tide when there were fewer pollutants. The first Liffey Swim had an entry of 27 male swimmers and was won by J.J. Kennedy with Bernard Fagan himself coming in third. Fagan’s son Jack Fagan later won the Liffey Swim in 1951. During the 1930s, 40s and early 50s the Liffey Swim attracted large crowds. The race originally started at Victoria Quay, from a Guinness Barge and finished at Burgh Quay. In 1991 the first ladies race was introduced and in the early 1990s the race was moved 400 yards down river to start beside the Civic Offices and to finish opposite the Custom House.

A detailed history of the Liffey Swim from 1920 to 1993 was published by Cyril J Smyth of TCD and is available in PDF format. These contributions also contain a lot of detailed information on the history of open sea swims in the Dublin area through the decades:

Past Winners

  Men Ladies
Year Name Club Name Club
1920 J.J. “Jack” Kennedy Sandycove SC    
1921 John Cyril Hopkins Pembroke SC    
1922 Thomas “Hayes” Dockrell Dublin SC    
1923 Charles “Cecil” Fagan Sandycove SC    
1924 O’Sullivan Roche Clontarf SC    
1925 Gerald C. “Gerry” Higginbotham Sandycove SC    
1926 Thomas A. O’Reilly Clontarf SC    
1927 James P. Wallace St Andrew’s College    
1928 Philip T. Brooks Dublin University SC    
1929 Dermot J. Healy Sandycove SC    
1930 William F. “Billy” Case Clontarf SC    
1931 E.J. Doyle Clontarf SC    
1932 Leo Maher Republican SC    
1933 John “Johnny” Ellis Clontarf SC    
1934 Richard N. “Ritchie” Case Clontarf SC    
1939 William Haskins Ashmore Dublin University SC    
1940 Patrick Kinsella Sandycove SC    
1941 Tom Hannigan North Dublin SC    
1942 Christopher P. Cloake Dublin SC    
1943 Anthony W. Kennett Pembroke SC    
1944 Patrick G. Condon North Dublin SC    
1945 J.P.D. “Jack” Cassidy Clontarf SC    
1946 Jimmy Rafter Half Moon SC    
1947 Kenneth E. Ruddock Carlow SC    
1948 David Griffin North Dublin SC    
1949 Frank O’Donovan North Dublin SC    
1950 Joe Grant Shannon SC    
1951 J.J. “Jack” Fagan North Dublin SC    
1952 Gerry Best Half Moon SC    
1953 Gerry Boland North Dublin SC    
1954 Jimmy Markey Dublin SC    
1955 Patrick “Pat” Broderick Galway SC    
1956 Thomas “Tommy” May Colmcille SC (Dublin)    
1957 Cyril Hardy Crusade Aquatic Club    
1958 Robin Power Sunday’s Well SC, Cork    
1959 Kevin King Crusade Aquatic Club    
1960 Seán Heffernan Clontarf SC    
1961 Anthony “Tony” Hardy Crusade Aquatic Club    
1962 Anthony “Tony” Byrne Dublin SC    
1963 Colm O’Brien Half Moon SC    
1964 David Page North Dublin SC    
1965 Patrick J. Kelly Guinness SC    
1966 Francis “Chalkey” White Guinness SC    
1967 Francis “Chalkey” White Guinness SC    
1968 William H. “Liam” Lacey Colmcile SC (Dublin)    
1969 John Mulvey Half Moon SC    
1970 David Fitzgerald Crusade Aquatic Club    
1971 Ultan Kerrigan North Dublin SC    
1972 Fintan O’Meara Clontarf SC    
1973 Paul Emmett Half Moon SC    
1974 Liam Bohan Half Moon SC    
1975 David Cummins Cormorant SC    
1976 Kevin Scully Templeogue SC    
1977 Nicholas O’Meara Clontarf SC Ann Cummins Cormorant SC
1978 Jim Mooney Half Moon SC Yvonne Smith Guinness SC
1979 Dermot Hughes Half Moon SC Mairéad Doran Dublin SC
1980 Michael Fitzpatrick Half Moon SC M. Carolan Coolmine SC
1981 Arthur Dunne Half Moon SC Louise Keogh Dublin SC
1982 Arthur Dunne Half Moon SC Audrey Martin Dundrum SC
1983 Paul Kealy Half Moon SC Janne Murphy ESB SC
1984 Jason Stynes Kingdom SC Maeve Chaney Half Moon SC
1985 Richard Joyce North Dublin SC Dolores Kenny Atlanta SC
1986 Greg O’Dwyer Guinness SC Paula Kearns Otter SC
1987 Shane Nicoletti Guinness SC Brenda Howard Dundrum SC
1988 Bert O’Brien Sandycove SC Siobhán Hoare Half Moon SC
1989 Derek Bimbo Wilkes North Dublin SC Ciara Byrne Trojan SC
1990 Oliver Flanagan St. Vincents SC Gillian Murray Half Moon SC
1991 Vincent Tormey Dublin University SC Siobhán Hoare Half Moon SC
1992 Matty Waine Guinness SC Anne Hudson Wicklow SC
1993 John Dunne Metro WSC Jill Donaghey Dublin SC
1994 Michael Finnegan ESB SC Mary McDermot Dublin SC
1995 Bert O’Brien Sandycove SC Elaine Murphy ESB SC
1996 Frank Chatham North Dublin SC Caroline Fleming Tallaght SC
1997 Michael Mongey St. Vincents SC Roisin Ryan Barracuda SC
1998 Frank Carroll Glenalbyn SC Aishling Wadden Wicklow SC
1999 John Ward Aer Lingus SC Debbie Doyle MMSC
2000 Brian Mongey MMSC Ciara O’Sullivan St. Pauls SC
2001 Paul Byrne North Dublin SC Valerie Spollen Phonenix SC
2002 Paschal Russell St. Pauls SC Mary Rose Keegan Otter SC
2003 John Morton Wicklow SC Sandra Trappe Dublin SC
2004 Robert Clarke Eastern Bay SC Colette Kelly Guinness SC
2005 Dan Smyth NAC Masters SC Molly Molloy Dublin SC
2006 Kevin Stacey Coolmine SC Claire Gavaghan ESB SC
2007 Larry Mooney Guinness SC Sandy Dowling Eastern Bay SC
2008 Charles Harper Dublin SC Mary Kelly Aer Lingus SC
2009 Pat O’Driscoll Templeogue SC Sorcha Barry Glenalbyn SC
2010 Brian O’Dwyer Guinness SC Deirdre Dunne St. Vincents SC
2011 Declan Proctor Eastern Bay SC Maria Quintanilla Dublin SC
2012 Tom Loftus Eastern Bay SC Clodagh Nolan Carraig Masters
2013 Ciaran O’Driscoll Half Moon SC Gina Murphy Glenalbyn SC
2014 Gerald Wilkes North Dublin SC Rachel Lee Guinness SC
2015 Donnacha O’Siadhail Swim4Life Orla Walsh ESB SC
2016 Brian Murray Eastern Bay SC Jennifer Gilbert Swim4Life
2017 Colin Monaghan Dublin SC Anne Marie Bourke Dublin SC
2018 Paul O’Flynn Half Moon SC Triona Muldoon Clontarf SC
2019 Mark Hanley North Dublin SC Sinead Delaney Phoenix SC


The Dublin City Liffey Swim is run each year by Leinster Open Sea Swimming, a voluntary not for profit organisation, and is the final swimming race in the Leinster Open Sea Calendar of over 35 Open Sea Races.

Many swimmers who compete in the Liffey Swim will also compete in the equally prestigious Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race in August. This race is approximately 2,200 metres around the Harbour.

Dublin City Council and the Liffey Swim

The swimmers are proud of the connection between the Liffey Swim and Dublin City Council. It is now a well established tradition that the Lord Mayor of Dublin starts the race each year.

Many staff members of Dublin City Council and Dublin Fire Brigade compete on an annual basis in the Dublin City Liffey Swim. One of the great Liffey traditions are the Liffey Showers at the end of the race provided by Dublin Fire Brigade.

Both the swimmers and Leinster Open Sea thank Dublin City Council for the support and assistance they give the Dublin City Liffey Swim each year.