Rowers Emily Hegarty and Aifric Keogh make historic breakthrough

Ireland’s rowers have made history at the World Championships in Bulgaria, where Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty have become the first Irish women’s pair to qualify for a world final.

Rowers Emily Hegarty and Aifric Keogh make historic breakthrough

By Robert Treharne Jones

Ireland’s rowers have made history at the World Championships in Bulgaria, where Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty have become the first Irish women’s pair to qualify for a world final.

The Irish crew, coached by David McGowan, placed fifth throughout the majority of the race, and looked unlikely to reach the medals race until the last 500m. At that point they pushed through the field, passing USA, Spain, and then Italy to cross the line first in a tight finish, beating the Italians by just 0.2 seconds.

“We knew everyone would go off hard, but we started working through the middle 1000m, stuck to our race plan, and hit the front at the right time,” said Keogh.

It seemed to take everyone by surprise, including ourselves — I thought we had come second.

Hegarty said: “It’s my first senior worlds and way beyond what I expected.”

Olympic silver medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan had a tough semi-final, ranking fourth until the halfway mark, just as they had in Wednesday’s previous round. But this time there was no steady trawl back through the field and the Skibbereen men had to dig deep to overhaul Poland for third, behind Italy and Belgium.

Earlier in the day, Ronan Byrne of UCC and Philip Doyle of Queen’s Belfast put in a stunning performance in their repechage of the men’s double sculls, leading off the blocks and establishing a three-second lead which they never let go.

Bulgaria’s Boris Yotov and Kristian Vasilev came through to take second place after the first 500m, but despite sculling the fastest final split, they could not prevent Ireland’s victory.

Our strength is our start — something just sort of clicked and it came out really well for us. We just held on to that and tried to make it 100% our race,” said Doyle.

On the strength of their win, the two men have now drawn a favoured lane for today’s semi-final, where Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont of Great Britain are favourites to win.

Later in the day Ireland’s lightweight women’s double of Denise Walsh and Aoife Casey won their CD semi-final ahead of Spain and Thailand to qualify for the C final of their event tomorrow.

The day ended when the Irish heavyweight men’s pair and reigning lightweight world champions, Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan, took to the water for a second time following their quarter-final earlier in the day.

Powering down the course at an average rate of 44 strokes per minute, the Irish pair looked set to secure a comfortable second place behind Australia before Italy made a late challenge and crossed the line an identical time with Ireland. All three boats progress to tomorrow’s C final.

Today sees Old Collegians’ sculler Sanita Puspure race for a place in the final where Canada’s Carling Zeeman and Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele will provide the stiffest opposition.

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