Risk of Irish rowing coaching talent being headhunted

The success of the Irish rowers at the World Championships and Olympics could lead to coaches such as Dominic Casey of Skibbereen being snapped up by other countries eager to replicate Ireland’s success.

High-Performance Director at the US Olympic Committee Finbarr Kirwan said such a scenario would be in line with previous moves such as the USA hiring Irish boxing coach Billy Walsh.

“It would not be outlandish, it would be in line with what they (the US) have done in the past.

“When you start they want you fully committed to Team USA, but there’s a genuine lack of ego in the system.

“Like life, there are pockets of it but the self-reflection that goes on in Olympic sport in the US is genuine, and that self-reflection leads to the question, ‘how can we do this better?’

“And that leads to ‘if we can’t find the person here, then where’ll we find them?’, and they go and find that person.

“That kind of self-reflection is very important.”

The recruitment of Billy Walsh is a case in point, added Cork native Kirwan.

“The first question I was asked when I joined was about boxing.

“They (the Irish boxers) were the big story, so when I joined I was asked for my thoughts on boxing as the US had an underperforming boxing programme, and we know the answer to that.

“Billy was recruited because he’s genuinely the best in the world at what he does.

“World coach of the year this year, and world coach of the year last year after the Olympics, he’s seen as the pre-eminent guy in that sport.

“When good people are out there then there’s no lack of ambition when it comes to the US Olympic Program getting those people.

“Arthur Lydiard was the man who coached the great New Zealand distance runner Peter Snell - and a lot of other runners - and Lydiard used to say there was an Olympian in every village, but his idea was that there wasn’t a coach in every village.

“There’s often been brilliant talent in Ireland which didn’t find the right way because the person didn’t get the right coaching - or perhaps get any coaching at all. Skibbereen is no different. I don’t know Dominic but I know his reputation.

“What they have achieved is tremendous, and it’s reflective of not looking for absolute perfection, but looking to get really good people together and succeeding.”

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