Last weekend the largest ever Irish Rowing Championships took place at the National Rowing Centre, Cork, and a great three days racing ensued as spectators were treated to the cream of Irish rowing. This week, the Irish Team have arrived in Plovdiv for the 2017 World Rowing Under 23 Championships and racing is already underway. Eight athletes have been selected to represent Ireland at the event within three crews. UCD have four athletes travelling with the team; David O’Malley and Shane Mulvaney, who compete together in a lightweight men’s pair, as well as Shane O’ Connell and Andrew Goff, who compete in a lightweight quadruple scull. Commercial Rowing Club’s Niall Beggan and UCC’s Stephen O’ Connor make up the remainder of this quad, while Skibbereen brothers Fintan and Jake McCarthy will race in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Ireland coach Dominic Casey will also travel with the team along with Paul Thornton of UCC and team manager Violet Hayes.
Yesterday the lightweight pair were second in their heat, but as only the winner would qualify directly for the A Final, they were destined for the repechages this morning for a second attempt at qualifying. Shortly afterwards, the Irish lightweight quad were convincing winners of their respective heat and now go to the A/B semi-finals. Ireland’s third crew contest their heat in the lightweight men’s double sculls this morning, where again only a win will do to progress directly. Both the Irish lightweight quad and pair finished just outside the medals last year, and will be looking to reach the podium this time around, before progressing from under 23 competition.
Weather conditions have produced ideal water for rowing with athletes enjoying calm water due to little or no wind, however they also have temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius to contend with. The competition will run until the finals on Sunday.
Bulgaria is not the only country where Ireland will be represented this weekend however, as the 2017 Home International Regatta also takes place on Saturday July 22 in Strathclyde Park, Glasgow. Ireland have a team of 74 athletes travelling; 19 senior men/senior women and 18 junior men/junior women. Ireland will be represented in every category at the event, both sweep rowing (using one oar per athlete) and sculling (two oars each), with most athletes competing in more than one boat. The event is now in its 54th year as Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales compete to win the Victor Ludorum – ‘the winner of the games’- in four categories: Senior Men, Senior Women, Junior Men and Junior Women (under 18).
Ireland had three wins at last year’s event which was held at Cardiff Bay in Wales; both the men’s and women’s senior fours were victorious, as well as the women’s senior eight. The overall standings after the Regatta saw Ireland’s senior men place third overall with 25 points, while the senior women were also third but shared the position with Wales on 23 points. The Irish junior men and women were both second overall with 16 and 19 points respectfully, with the junior men’s team also having to share the spot with Scotland who also finished with 16 points.
For some Irish athletes, the Home International has been the pinnacle of their rowing career; for others a first step on the road to World and Olympic Championships. For Gary and Paul O’ Donovan, it was the first international event for which they were selected to represent Ireland.