Swim from Gola to the mainland is a massive success

MORE than €14,000 has been raised for Donegal Cancer Flights after a group of swimmers took on the challenge of swimming from Gola to the mainland on Thursday.

For many of the brave participants they only first got into the water last November and since then they have been working hard to conquer their goal of swimming the 2km distance.

The aim was to not only raise funds for a good cause but also highlight the health benefits of open sea swimming and put Donegal’s beautiful offshore islands in the spotlight.


Sarah Anne McGinley, Joleen Gallagher, Maria Bonner and Celine O Gara heading to Gola Island to participate in the Swim for flights on Thursday.

Speaking to the Donegal News on Friday Charlie Boyle, who took part in the swim himself, said it was so successful they have already picked a date for next year’s event.

“The core group that swam went into the water last November. I hadn’t been in the water since I was a teenager. I knew I could swim but I had a fear of cold water,” said Charlie.

“You find after a week the body adjusts. The benefits of it kicked in very quickly.”

In those early days Charlie said members of the group had to be walked into the water and were terrified. But they quickly discovered the physical and mental health benefits.

“It was more than a swim, it was a journey for so many people,” he said.

Sally Rodgers and Charlie Boyle, organised and swam across the open sea. Sally’s first entry into the open sea was 8 months ago and her courageous crossing was the swimming story of the day.


A community started to develop, at first there were two or three swimmers and then it developed into nine or ten. On Fridays they shared home made treats which did wonders for attendance.

The group was only up and running for a few months when they decided to set themselves the goal of swimming from Gola to Maghergallon Pier.

At that stage they were only swimming 200 meters so the 2km distance felt quite daunting.

They picked Donegal Cancer Flights as the beneficiary because during their early morning swims the patients travelling to Dublin for treatment were never too far from their minds.

While they were in the water they could see planes taking off from Donegal Airport and they were very conscious that the flight most likely had cancer patients or patients travelling for various treatments on-board.

Plans for the swim started to take shape and safety was very much a priority.

Gerry Early, who has forty years experience with the RNLI, came on board as a safety officer.

“The priority was not fundraising or our enjoyment, it was that everyone got ashore,” said Charlie.

“The goal initially was to raise € 1,000 which was the equivalent of 30 flights for cancer patients.

“Little did we know it would go up in thousands.”

“People have really reacted to it,” he said.

The McCaughan family from Drumfin, Termon at Thursdays swim with Anne, Tiarnan and Áine having swam across from Gola Island

The swimmers followed eight experienced swimmers that led the way to the mainland. The crowds gathered at the pier to welcome them ashore including TV cameras.

“The interest it generated was fantastic,” added Charlie.

“One of the key moments was half way across someone shouted ‘the fund is over € 10,000’.

“That shows the power of social media. Once the swim started donations started coming in from America, the UK and all over the county. “

The date of August 10, 2023 has now been set for the swim next year.

Charlie said this will ensure the swimmers don’t rest on their laurels and get back in the water but it also may encourage others to start preparing now and set themselves a goal to complete in 12 months time.

Donations can still be made on the Go Fund Me Page ‘The Gola Swim for Flights’.

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