O’Donovan brothers shine at regional trials in Cork

Paul and Gary O’Donovan remain the two fastest lightweight scullers in the country. 

At the Rowing Ireland regional trials held at the National Rowing Centre in Cork last weekend, the Olympic silver medalists finished first and second in the rankings, Paul completing the 6km time trial in 23 mins 6 seconds and Gary next fastest in 23:20.

Chris Beck of Queens University Belfast was next best in 23:49.

It’s promising form from the brothers, who are juggling training with a busy college schedule, with Paul completing his final year of physiotherapy in UCD and Gary studying for a Masters in Law in UCC.

A total of 34 clubs from all over Ireland were represented at the trials, with 188 rowers taking to the water in 143 different crew boats at the NRC in Farran and Lough Rynn in Co. Leitrim

In the lightweight men’s pair, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll of Skibbereen — fourth in the world last year — were fastest, producing a promising 6k performance equating to 86.49% of the World Championship “Gold Standard”.

Two-time Irish Olympian Sanita Puspure also impressed with a time of 24:40 and remains the fastest Irish female sculler, nearly 30 seconds in front of Monika Dukarska of Killorglin who made a return to the trialling system following a short absence.

Puspure looks in good shape and is looking forward to the 2017 season.

Rowing Ireland lead coaches Dominic Casey and Seán Casey thanked clubs for their assistance and cooperation during what they called a “highly successful event”.

Meanwhile, at the junior trial at the recently developed top-class facility on Lough Rynn, Hannah Scott of Bann Rowing Club produced the standout performance, finishing in 25:32, a remarkable 89% of world best time for a junior athlete over this distance.

Top male junior was Aaron Christie, also of Bann, with a solid time of 24:6.

Another noteworthy junior performance came from the combination of Margaret Cremin of Lee Rowing Club in Cork and Skibbereen rower Aoife Casey in the women’s junior double. This boat produced the highest ranking on the day in terms of percentage of calculated world gold medal-winning time, particularly impressive being their first time in the boat together — a clear indication that the crew immediately gelled and could be a potential pairing going forward.

Sunday was an opportunity for the Rowing Ireland lead coaches to try out different crew combinations, picking from the large pool of athletes available. Dominic Casey noted that a number of the junior crews, in particular, performed well.

“Last weekend was a good way to start off the 2017 season,” he said. “We were lucky to have had good weather and calm water, and we had the chance to see what combinations worked and what didn’t.”

Sean Casey hopes to increase the number of athletes at U23 level, and was glad to see many showing progression from last year.

“It’s good to see some of the heavyweights making the step up from junior to U23 and senior level, and hopefully more will follow their lead.”

Both coaches were encouraged by what they saw and are now very much looking forward to the subsequent — invitation only — trial in March, which will consist of side-by-side racing over a shorter 2km distance. This will be the real test as it is the proper competitive racing format, a flat-out sprint to the line.

There will be plenty of activity in the lead-up to the trial, with Heads of the River (HORs) continuing to take place around the country, and the first World Cup in Belgrade scheduled shortly afterwards in early May.

The St Michael’s Head of the River takes place on Saturday, February 25 at O’Briensbridge in Limerick, and a large entry of 380 crews are due to take part in the time trial.

Just five “Heads” are remaining on the domestic calendar before regatta season kicks off on April 1.


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