Grassroots rows in behind thriving sport

As the year draws to a close and clubs around the country continue a hard winter’s training, we look back on an unprecedented year of success for Rowing Ireland.

Finally an Olympic medal, after more than 100 years of Rowing Ireland and the Irish Amateur Rowing Union. The sport is thriving around the country; there is massive interest from schools and a huge rise in domestic entries at events — that’s not forgetting the high-performance results across the boards at international regattas.

The Rowing Ireland schools programme, ‘Get Going… Get Rowing’, has gone from strength to strength. Having started off as a small pilot programme in 2014, the initiative has grown to schools across Leinster, Connacht, and Munster. Three community coaches have just been recruited to launch the programme in Limerick City and county through funding obtained under the dormant accounts scheme.

With 14,000 students being given access to rowing, the initiative has become part of the PE curriculum in schools served by the programme. The ethos of the initiative is to “give every student a sport and pathway for life”.

Rowing is not a sport that has traditionally been offered in schools and ‘Get Going… Get Rowing’ seeks to remedy this. Some 125 second-level pupils have now transitioned from the programme to rowing clubs and are competing at heads and regattas all over the country.

The programme also focuses on women in rowing through mentoring and encouraging more women to become involved in all aspects of the sport. It is a subject that has been prominent in recent days given the Sports Minister’s announcement regarding quotas and funding.

In 2016, Get Rowing, together with Rowing Ireland, held a women in coaching workshop hosted by former Olympic medallist and twice Olympic coach for Canada and Australia, Laryssa Biesenthal. She will return to Ireland in February to host a two-day coaching session to encourage and mentor Rowing Ireland aspiring female coaches.

With a great backbone in schools and clubs around the country, the future is looking very bright. Irish rowing now boasts an Olympic silver medal from Gary and Paul O’Donovan, together with their European gold medal, and Paul’s gold at the world championships.

There was also a European bronze medal for Sanita Puspure, while Claire Lambe and Sinead Jennings became the first Irish women to reach an Olympic rowing final. In fact, every Irish crew this year at the world championships was in the top 12. On a junior perspective, there were two outstanding Coupe de la Jeunesse medals, silver and bronze.

As 2016 draws to a close, a new team of high-performance coaches are on board, together with a dedicated Rowing Ireland team. They will all continue to work hand in hand in 2017 with a large contingent of highly committed coaches, club members, and volunteers around Ireland.

Next year should be another interesting and exciting one for Irish rowing.


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