The World Junior Rowing Championships in Tokyo resulted in a major first for Ireland, who qualified both their boats for the finals for the first time.
And though neither the men’s coxed four nor the women’s double reached the podium, it marks another significant milestone in the growth of Irish rowing.
Today’s finals kicked off with the men’s coxed four, in which James O’Donovan of Castleconnell, Matthew Gallagher of St Josephs, Shandon’s Jack Dorney and John Kearney of Cork, and their cox, Leah O’Regan, lined up alongside China, who beat them to the line by just 0.16 sec in Thursday’s heat.
Ireland went off at 49 strokes a minute, and pulled through to first place after 500m, closely followed by China and South Africa, who took over the leading positions at halfway.
That all changed in the final quarter where Germany launched a sustained attack that moved them right through the pack into the gold medal position, while South Africa eclipsed China for silver and Ireland were edged into fourth.
In the women’s doubles Rhiannon O’Donoghue and Molly Curry, who had pulled off the race of a lifetime to qualify from Saturday’s semi-final, despite just five weeks together in the boat, couldn’t sustain the pace and slipped to fifth while the Netherlands took gold ahead of China and Lithuania.
“We definitely didn’t think we’d make the final- we learned a lot from the repechage, and we surprised ourselves that we had that bit extra to give in the semi-final,” said Curry afterwards.
“We achieved pretty much what we hoped to achieve – I don’t think the guys and girls left anything out there, so I’m pretty proud,” said Rowing Ireland coach John Armstrong.
"If somebody said 10 days ago that we’d be fifth in the world I’d have ripped their arm off, so I’m pretty happy."