What was supposed to be a routine training dive by five members of the Shannonside Sub Aqua Club on Monday turned into something truly exciting when one of the divers found a sword thought to date from the Viking era!
The discovery was made at the surface of the River Shannon in Banagher by local postman John Heffernan.
Speaking to the Offaly Independent yesterday (Thursday), John outlined the circumstances of his dramatic find.
"There were five of us taking part in a routine dive last Monday evening and during it I came across a piece of wood in the river. I removed it and - lo and behold - there was a sword underneath it," he explained.
The divers initially assumed that the sword was of a relatively modern vintage, but when they took it back to their boat and examined it further, they started to consider the possibility that it was an historic find.
The National Museum in Dublin was contacted and its assistant keeper of Irish antiquities, Dr Andy Halpin, came to examine the sword on Tuesday.
"After he examined it, he said to me 'do you realise what it is that you've got here?' He said he was 99% sure that it was a Viking sword," said John, who added that there were certain inscriptions on the blade and markings on the handle.
Dr Halpin won't know for definite if it is a Viking sword until it has been cleaned and forensically examined at the National Museum - a process that could take up to a year.
For now, Dr Halpin has said the sword is "of a Viking type and probably dates back to the 10th century."
John, who lives in Birr and works as a postman in Banagher, has been an active diver for the last four years and is involved in search and recovery operations with the Shannonside Sub Aqua Club. He said divers in the Shannon could often come across items ranging from old bottles and anchors to bicycles and shopping trolleys. But this is the first time he's come across something of such an historic nature in the river. "It's absolutely unreal. The phone hasn't stopped ringing since it happened," he said.