Nationals begin as Irish pairs square up in Lucerne

World champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll will face stiff competition from another Irish pair as their transition to the heavyweight boat continues at World Cup III in Lucerne.

The Skibbereen crew, who ranked 15th on their World Cup heavyweight debut last month, will be joined in Switzerland by Patrick Boomer (Belfast) and Andy Harrington (Shandon).

The Boomer-Harrington pairing, who are 6ft 5in and 6ft 8in in height respectively, finished 2.8 seconds behind the Skibbereen duo at the Ireland trial in May.

“It’s good to be out there among the best, real competition on the world stage,” said Harrington, a native of Blackrock in Cork.

Boomer added: “It’s the challenge for me and the prospect of representing my country at the Olympics.

This is my second senior international event but my first World Cup, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Sanita Puspure (silver) and Gary and Paul O’Donovan (bronze) are hoping to add to their World Cup medal haul in Lucerne, after a lack of finances prevented them from travelling to World Cup II in Austria. The Linz-Ottensheim course is where the 2019 World Championships/ Olympic qualifiers will be held.

The team is completed by Aileen Crowley (Old Collegians) and Monika Dukarska (Killorglin) in the women’s double sculls, UCC’s Aifric Keogh and Tara Hanlon in the women’s pair, and Philip Doyle (Queen’s) in the men’s single sculls.

On home water, Denise Walsh and Aoife Casey will be a star attraction in the women’s double sculls final (6.15pm) on day one of the National Rowing Championships this evening.

The regatta on Inniscarra Lake, which runs until Sunday, is the biggest to ever be held in Ireland.

More than 1,600 athletes from over 60 clubs will race in Irish rowing’s blue-riband event, which has seen a 7.5% rise in entries to 1,127 crews.

More than 10,000 competitors and spectators are anticipated over the weekend.

“The committee has been working hard to ensure that everything is in place to make it a fantastic weekend of racing,” said Championships secretary Kieran Kerr.

Despite the recent warm dry spell of weather, water levels are holding well and haven’t dropped much since the Cork Regatta at the end of June, so we’ll have six-lane racing over the 2,000-metre course from Rooves Bridge to the finish line in front of the National Rowing Centre in Farran Wood.

“The Irish Championships will make for a fantastic start to the Festival of Rowing which runs until the end of July.”

That Festival of Rowing also includes the Home Internationals Regatta between Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales on July 21 and the European Coupe de la Jeunesse from July 27 to 29.

There is an international element to some of the races at the National Championships too, with four crews from Philadelphia’s Fairmount RC and a rower from UK club Roxbourne entering the masters races.

Other highlights include Clonmel’s Daire Lynch (2nd last year) and UCC/Shandon’s Ronan Byrne (4th) going up against Tiernan Oliver (Queen’s) and Andrew Goff (UCD) for Paul O’Donovan’s men’s single sculls crown (final at 5.50pm tonight), while Emily Hegarty (UCC), Selma Bouanane (Fermoy), Lisa Dilleen (Cork), Georgia O’Brien (UL), and Ellen O’Mahony (Lee Valley) will compete for Puspure’s women’s single sculls title (final at 6.30pm on Saturday).

On Sunday, Jake McCarthy (Skibbereen), Luke Sutton (New Ross), and Adam Green (Waterford) will be hoping to fight it out to succeed champion Gary O’Donovan in the men’s lightweight single sculls final (11.40am).

Margaret Cremen (Lee), Orla Hayes (Skibbereen), Victoria Wallace (QUBLBC), and Anna O’Sullivan (Fermoy) are contenders for the women’s final (12.10pm), won by Walsh last year.

Annual highlights, the senior eights, will close out the championships (women’s final at 5pm, men’s at 5.20pm).

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