Legendary Ireland rowing coach Dominic Casey has been announced as Coach of the Year by the World Rowing Federation.
Casey received his prestigious award at a glittering event last night in Berlin, which provided the highlight of the National Rowing Federations Conference in the German capital.
Ireland had been nominated for an unprecedented three awards, with world champion Sanita Puspure among the shortlisted candidates for women’s crew of the year, and the O’Donovan brothers reaching the final four for the men’s prize.
But this time it was the O’Donovans’ quietly spoken mentor who took the limelight, beating candidates from Germany, the Netherlands and the USA to take the prize.
Also in the running were Uwe Bender, long-time coach of the world champion German men’s eight; Jan Klerks, coach to the phenomenally successful Dutch para-rowing team; and Laurel Korholz, who coached the US women’s four to gold two months ago in Bulgaria.
Casey, himself a former rower, has been at the cutting edge of elite rowing in Ireland since 1979, as a member of Skibbereen — the most successful rowing club in the country.
The club’s groaning trophy cabinet has been largely due to the efforts of crews under his tutelage. World lightweight champions Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan have had their fair share of glory, but it was Gary and Paul O’Donovan who were catapulted into stardom by their silver medal in Rio and subsequent success on the media stage.
Despite being credited with Skibbereen’s success, Casey’s focus is on his athletes and he is notoriously reluctant to accept any praise himself and, despite his long success, he was only offered a full-time appointment two years ago.
“It came as quite a surprise - I’m not really one for awards, I like to stay in the background, but I had to come this time,” he joked after receiving his prize.
Ireland’s rowers continue to punch above their weight, and this year’s two world championship titles, for Puspure and the O’Donovans, have been the culmination of many years of hard work by the support team, with the coaches at their heart.
“Dominic has done great work, and with all the other coaches the team is doing great work on their way to Tokyo, but we’re not complacent and we still have a lot of work to do” said Michelle Carpenter, CEO of Rowing Ireland.
Nominations from the rowing public, which totalled more than 1,000, went to World Rowing’s expert nominations panel and individual judging panels before the finalists were decided by the Executive Committee.
The award for Men’s Crew of the Year went to Australia’s Joshua Hicks, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves, and Alexander Hill, who won the world title in Plovdiv last September.
In the equivalent women’s award the prize went to the gold medal women’s quad from Poland — Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, Marta Wieliczko, Maria Springwald, and Katarzyna Zillmann.
The award for Para-rowing Crew of the Year went to two more world champions, Annika van der Meer and Corne de Koning of the Netherlands.