Three Irish crews make semi-final cut

THREE Irish crews have qualified for the semi-finals at the Rowing World Championships at Dorney Lake, Eton.

Yesterday, the Irish women’s lightweight double crew of Sinéad Jennings and Niamh Ní Cheilleachair, along with the men’s lightweight four of Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Eugene Coakley and Gearoid Towey, joined the heavyweight four, which qualified on Tuesday, in the semi-finals of their respective competitions.

Jennings and Ní Cheilleachair became the second Irish crew to advance to the semi-finals by defeating defending world champions Germany to win their repechage in a time of 7.17.26.

The Irish men’s lightweight four (LM4-) of Towey, Coakley, Archibald and Griffin followed on the success of their female teammates, qualifying for tomorrow’s semi-finals by winning their repechage in a time of 6.12.91.

The men’s four were initially challenged by a South African four which matched the Irishmen to the 500-metre mark, but by the halfway point the Irish had established a lead of almost a length.

With 250 metres to go, the Irish were four seconds clear of the South Africans, who were busy battling with the Austrian four for the second and final qualifying spot. The Irish were almost a length and a half clear of the field over the line in an improved performance on Monday’s heat, while the South Africans held on for the second qualifying spot.

The four have now drawn a very tough semi-final, facing reigning world champions France, heat one winners Germany, Great Britain, the USA and Poland in tomorrow’s race.

Afterwards, Eugene Coakley said their plan had been to go out and win and he said: “It ensures one of the better lanes for the semi-final and it was nice to get back to winning ways.”

Coakley admitted the Chinese did spring a bit of a surprise on them on Monday but he said there “are no medals handed out until Sunday, so what we want to do is improve through the stages of the week and I think we’re doing that.

“It’s going to be tight on Friday but semi-finals are like that and we’re looking forward to the tussle now.”

In the repechage of the women’s double it was the Germans who got away fastest and led at the 500m mark. Jennings and Ní Cheilleachair steadily made ground on them and drew level with the world champions as they moved through the 1000m point, taking the lead 250m later.

The Irish twosome were controlled in their racing as they stretched further away from the German double, winning by a length and a quarter.

“We executed our race plan well today; we wanted to beat the Germans and win the race and we’re satisfied to have done both; they’re defending world champions, after all,” remarked Ní Cheilleachair.

Jennings and Ní Cheilleachair face two of the medallists at last year’s World Championships in their semi-final — the US and Finland — as well as strong challengers in Sweden, Australia and Great Britain.

Ní Cheilleachair said: “We were better again today but the next race will be tough; we’re going out to make the final though, that’s the next goal.”

Earlier the men’s lightweight double (LM2x) of Tim Harnedy and Richard Coakley from Skibbereen narrowly missed out on qualification for the semi-finals when they finished third in their repechage, needing to have been in the top two.

The organising committee decided to cancel racing for the remainder of the day due to crosswinds with an hour’s competition left on the programme, meaning Dubliner Sean Jacob didn’t get to contest his heavy single scull (M1x) C/D semi-final.

The affected races will start at 9am today, with a 9.48am start for Jacob.

Elsewhere, the heavyweight four (M4-) face an immense challenge in their semi-final today; they’ve drawn the all-conquering British four, and the German and Slovenian crews that have already medalled at this season’s World Cups as well an impressive Canadian outfit, and the Italians will also challenge. The top three will advance to the final.

*Television coverage of the World Championships will be screened by Eurosport and BBC in the coming days. The Eurosport coverage today begins at midday.

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