Dublin’s Cathal McNally in the top 10 of the World’s Strongest Firefighter contest organized by Arnold Schwarzenegger

A Dubliner has finished in the top ten of the World’s Strongest Firefighter competition organized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the United States.

More than 20,000 competitors took part in 60 events as part of the 2022 Arnold Sports Festival, held in Columbus, Ohio, this past weekend.

Dublin firefighter Cathal McNally (30), attached to A Watch in Swords, was one of 16 athletes selected to compete in the World’s Strongest Firefighter category, where he finished ninth.

More than 400 firefighters applied to participate, which involved meeting certain performance criteria and submitting a video. The event came in the wake of the California wildfires in 2018.

Hollywood star Schwarzenegger, a former state governor, had visited the firefighting crews and was so impressed with their efforts that he created a special category for firefighters the following year.

Cathal, who has worked for the Dublin Fire Brigade for five years, said fitness had always been a big part of his life, but he only started training Strongman during lockdown.

He described the opportunity to compete as “a once-in-a-lifetime thing”.

Competitors were given four grueling tasks, including a 250lb log press, a 250lb sandbag carry, a 525lb deadlift and a 550lb arm-on-arm sled pull.

Cathal found the sandbag carrying section the hardest. “It goes from being ok to not being ok very quickly,” he said. “I was ecstatic but exhausted afterwards.”

He admitted he was “completely amazed” when he met Schwarzenegger twice over the weekend.

“We were having breakfast one morning and he came to our table and surprised us,” he said.

“On the day of the contest, he took us on stage in front of an audience of around 2,000 people and then presented us with our challenge pieces as a souvenir.

“He couldn’t have been friendlier and I was completely impressed – I can’t even remember what I said to him.

“I was able to present him with a challenge coin specially designed by the Dublin Fire Brigade which he was delighted with as he is a supporter of the Fire Department.

“It’s something I’m still going to talk about 50 years from now,” said Cathal, who has been a “big fan” of the actor since he was a kid.

“When I was growing up he was everywhere – I must have watched Terminator about 50 times. His bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron, is the reason I started going to the gym.

Cathal is grateful to Dubco Credit Union, Dublin Fire Brigade Sports and Social Club and fellow station members for sponsoring his trip to the United States.

While he considers the Dublin Fire Department his dream job, he insists that you don’t have to be a Strongman competitor to be a firefighter.

“People with moderate fitness can be just as effective at this,” he said. “Everyone brings something different to the job and everyone has their own strengths.”

As for future plans, Cathal said he hopes to apply for next year’s World’s Strongest Firefighter competition. “I’ll be back,” he joked.

Teresa E. Burton