Mona McSharry is back in her native Sligo, just a week out from the FINA World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi.

McSharry will be among the 11-strong Irish team competing at the event, a return to international action for the swimmer who at the end of July became only the second Irish competitor to reach an Olympic final. Her appearance in the 100m breaststroke final in Tokyo a further indication of McSharry's rise after junior success at European and World level.

The 21-year-old, in speaking to RTÉ Sport, did admit that there wasn't too much time to celebrate her Olympic achievements given that she had to return to college in the USA, but did add that she exceeded her own expectations in Tokyo.

"I had a pretty quick turnaround after coming back from the Olympics, four days off and then back to college," she said.

"I think that was nicer for me as it got me back to reality, back into hard work. It happened, it was amazing, but it's nice to keep going and move forward. Still, I was happy with with what I achieved.

"I thought I swam well and moved through the rounds pretty well. There are places where I can improve and there always will be. But I honestly went above and beyond what I thought was achievable at that Olympics. It makes me excited for the next Olympics and the next couple of years of competing."

There is an air of confidence when McSharry speaks about her future ambitions; a confidence that she can line up again with the world's best swimmers at major finals.

"I'm working my way up to being competitive at the top level," she added.

"It was a big jump for me to go from junior worlds and then all of a sudden to be surrounded by so many seniors, so many amazing athletes. Making that transition was hard but building on all the experiences and then making the [Olympic final] and competing was great.

"To stand alongside all those women from all over the world was really nice. That tells me that I do belong there."

McSharry studies at the University of Tennessee (she was joined this year by fellow Irish competitor Ellen Walshe), opting to further her career Stateside, rather than availing of the High Performance Unit back home. It is an environment where she feels she can thrive, and where her competitive streak can blossom.

"They offered the best set-up with college and swimming. Everything is on campus, everything I ever need is there within a five-minute drive for me. I wanted to get my degree while I was swimming.

"When I retire I will have something to lean back on. The collegiate system is something that for any athlete who gets the opportunity is one they should really go for. Swimming is my break from college studies and studies are my break from swimming. I don't have a lot of time from anything else.

"I'm a very competitive person by nature in everything I do. I'm surrounded here by so many people, male and female, in the gym and in the pool. We are always competing against each other to be best at everything. It's a healthy competition which I love as well.

"There are no hard feelings if you beat someone one day and they beat you the next. That's a great environment where no one is afraid to be faster than someone else or shying away from competition.

"I haven't race short course metres in a long time so I'm excited to just go ouy there, do my best and have fun"

"We live by the 'Triple A' and that's basically 'anytime, any place, anyone'. You just compete and go for it."

Re-united with her family in the village of Grange, McSharry has also spent some time at the Marlins Swimming Club in Ballyshannon, the place where her talent emerged under the tutelage of coach Grace Meade.

In Dubai, she will compete in the 100m individual medlay, 50m breaststroke 100m breaststroke, and maybe the relays. Excitement abounds with the prospect of entering the short course arena again after a while away

"It's not super challenging; the important is that you're hitting your walls, and working on the turns.

"We do work a lot on turn work. I haven't race short course metres in a long time so I'm excited to just go out there, do my best and have fun. The Olympics reminded me how much fun racing can be. "