Irish crew book ticket to Beijing

IRELAND has secured a second boat at the Olympics as the Irish men’s lightweight four (LM4-) put in an impressive performance in the final qualifying regatta in Poznan, Poland yesterday to confirm their place in Beijing.

The four of Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Gearóid Towey and Cathal Moynihan grabbed second place in their final, behind Germany. Only the first two boats of the six finalists across the line won Olympic qualification. The four finished with two seconds to spare over the Serbians in third.

Killarney rower Moynihan said the crew had learned from their mistakes in the heats, when the Spanish crew had laid down a fierce challenge: “We’d a great first 500 metres, we went out to make a statement early on; we went out as hard as we could. We went faster than we’ve ever gone in the first 500m. We did plenty early on to make sure we didn’t have to fight for it against the Spanish like we did in the heat, that was our plan and we did it well.”

Paul Griffin of Muckross club, the boat’s stroker, said: “The lads did really well today, I knew after about 400m that we were going to do it; there was a lot of power behind me.

“It’s been a really hard year, we rose out of the dead. Ten months ago in Munich was a real low point in my rowing career, we’d a hard winter, the boys have been great, coaching has been great, everything has been great,” said Griffin.

Yesterday’s performance means Ireland will now have two boats racing at the Olympic regatta. The lightweight four join the men’s heavyweight four (M4-) who secured Olympic qualification at last year’s World Championships. The crews for both boats will be finalised in mid-July.

In yesterday’s final the much-fancied German four setting a blistering pace off the start and throughout the first half of the 2000m test. The Irish four also set off fast, knowing they needed to get ahead of the pack rather than be chasing it if they were to realise their goal of Olympic qualification.

As this was the last chance for boats to qualify for the Games all four of the Irish crew were feeling the pressure. Richard Archibald said: “It’s so cutthroat. We’ve gone out there before and come away with medals, but medals don’t mean that much today. It was about taking the next step. Normally the Serbs and Spanish wouldn’t give us too much bother, we wouldn’t think about them. But everybody is throwing everything at this. Their lives are on the line. It was great to get a good performance today.”

Gearóid Towey revealed the team’s relief afterwards. “We all put in a very hard winter and if we hadn’t have qualified it would have been hell,” said the Fermoy RC ace.

The four will now take a 10-day break to rest and recuperate before heading for a training camp in Italy.

The 2008 Olympic regatta will be held at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on the side of the Chaobi river from August 9-17.

The lightweight four’s qualification sees Ireland end the Poznan meet on a high. The heavyweight pair (M2-) of Sean Casey and Jonno Devlin, and lightweight double (LM2x) of Eugene and Richard Coakley both missed out at the semi-final stage in Poznan.

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