Ray of hope as heavyweight four earn place in semi-final

AFTER the disappointments of the first day of the World Rowing Championships at Eton, there was much better news yesterday for the Irish team at the Dorney Lake venue.

The Irish men’s heavyweight four of Cormac Folan, Sean O’Neill, Sean Casey and Alan Martin became the first Irish boat to qualify for the semi-finals by finishing second behind France in their repechage, in a time of 5.58.21.

In a thrilling race, the French crew set the pace with the Irish and Czechs not far behind. It was in the third quarter that the Irish crew snatched the lead from the French, while the Australians disputed third with the Czechs. France finished the strongest coming through the Irish at the line but notably, the Irish finished ahead of the Czech crew, something they’ve never managed before.

The Irish foursome are targeting improvement on their 10th placing at last year’s world championships, and on yesterday’s showing, look to be on course to meet that target.

“We were very pleased with our row today. We feel we made significant progress with our race plan,” said bow man Cormac Folan.

“We targeted the Czechs as a crew we could beat so it was satisfying to finish almost two seconds up on them. We feel we’re showing the consistency needed at this level with another sub-six-minute performance today.”

Both Ireland’s heavyweight single scullers, Caroline Ryan (W1x), and Sean Jacob (M1x), missed out on semi-finals spots by finishing fourth in their respective repechages.

Ryan put up a characteristically gutsy showing in her repechage, recording the fastest last 500 metres of all six competitors. However, after the race she withdrew from the remainder of the championships on medical grounds. The Irish medical team had been treating the Kildare woman for an injury over the last week and it was decided that further competition would only aggravate the injury.

“I’m disappointed not to have made the semi-final but overall I’m pleased with how my first senior season has gone and the progress I’ve made during it; I’m really looking forward to next season already,” she said.

Commercial’s Sean Jacob was unlucky to draw Coleraine man Alan Campbell, who rows for Great Britain, in his repechage. Campbell won the World Cup series this season and showed his class winning the repechage by almost five seconds from the Swiss sculler in second, the Fin third and the Dubliner fourth.

Jacob will be hoping to claim a place in the C rather than D final when he races again today, but he was dissatisfied by yesterday’s performance.

“I’m disappointed with how I performed today, I didn’t have a good row and didn’t produce my best when I needed to, to be in with a chance of qualification,” Jacob said.

Ireland’s three lightweight boats all take to the water today in their repechages. The women’s double (LW2x) of Donegal’s Sinéad Jennings and Offaly’s Niamh Ní Cheilleachair face world champions Germany in their heat, but are determined not to allow themselves get psyched out of the race and are confident of taking one of the top two places necessary to advance to the semi-finals.

The men’s lightweight double (LM2x) of Richard Coakley and Tim Harnedy will be aiming to improve on their heat showing today in a competitive repechage but will be up against it as they must be one of the top two over the line to advance.

The men’s lightweight four (LM4-) are itching to get back on the water in the second of four repechages in their event at 10.10am.

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