SARAH DINEEN: O’Donovan brothers gunning for more glory in Racice

Gary and Paul O'Donovan: Aim to win gold at Euro championships.

Gary and Paul O’Donovan will be defending their European lightweight double sculls title at the 2017 European Rowing Championships this weekend, writes Sarah Dineen.

More than 500 top rowers head to Racice, Czech Republic (near Prague) to compete in the championships, which run from Friday May 26 to Sunday May 28.

Teams from 34 nations have entered, and the Irish team remains the same as World Cup I in Belgrade, Serbia just three weeks ago, where the Irish won two medals.

The top boats in the lightweight men’s double sculls from World Cup I will be facing each other once again. Great Britain’s Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher won at the season opener, while Miroslav Vrastil and Jiri Simanek from Czech Republic and Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Janowski took the lesser medals.

The A Final saw the top four boats finish within one and a half seconds of each other with the 2016 Olympic Silver medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan in fourth. The brothers will be defending their title as reigning European champions in Racice this weekend, and are gunning for a medal.

In the women’s single sculls, all three medallists from World Cup I will again race in Racice; Switzerland’s gold medallist Jeannine Gmelin, Great Britain’s silver medallist Victoria Thornley, and bronze medallist from Austria Magdalena Lobnig. Ireland’s Sanita Puspure, who finished fifth, is one of two other A finalists from Belgrade who will also be racing again, the other being rowing’s most medalled rower Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, who was fourth.

The two Irish remaining Irish crews are both returning to the international stage on the back of a highly successful season opener, with Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan emerging victorious in the lightweight men’s pair, claiming gold, while Denise Walsh was the silver medallist in the lightweight women’s single.

Both crews will be hoping to carry this momentum forward to Racice, and will also have the added advantage of a training camp in Varese, Italy, between the two events.

The entire Irish team travelled together from Varese to Racice earlier in the week. Racing begins tomorrow at 9am Irish time with heats, and progresses through repechages, semi- finals and to the finals on Sunday. A-finals will start at 9:33am. The A finals will be broadcast live on many European TV channels as well as on www.worldrowing.com. The draw will be made today and race times for the Irish Team will be posted on the RI website.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Rowing Ireland Grand League continues this weekend with the Dublin Metropolitan Regatta on Saturday in Blessington.

This is the second of three Grand League Events in 2017, starting with Skibbereen Regatta and the final leg being Cork Regatta next month. The Grand League is the premier rowing league in Ireland and there are some excellent prizes up for grabs for the overall winners, sponsored by Filippi; Two sets of sculling blades for the overall winning club, and one set for each of the four divisions (Division 1 Men & Women, Division 2 Men & Women). The overall top club points winners are determined from accumulated points across all divisions.

This is the 140th running of Dublin Regatta, and a large entry has been recorded with 356 crews competing in total.

The same day, the Belfast Sprint Regatta takes place. The sprint course is short — 500m from a pontoon start — straight and buoyed in front of the boathouses on the River Lagan. It is quite safe and hence ideal for the young, inexperienced rowers and all races can be followed alongside by bicycle. A total of 160 crews are registered to take part in this year’s event.

Last weekend saw the Junior Rowing Ireland team bring home brilliant results from the European Championships in Krefeld, Germany. The men’s pair of Enniskillen based Ross Corrigan and Aaron Johnston and the men’s quad of Cork Boat club Barry O’Flynn, Matt Dundon from Clonmel, Jack Keating from Carlow and James Quinlan from Castleconnell, Limerick finished in 10th place.

The women’s pair, Fermoy based Ellie O’Reilly and Gill McGirr who donned their Irish jerseys for the first time came in ninth. The Cork based double scull of Lee Rowing club Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey from Skibbereen brought home Ireland’s first silver medal from a European Championship.

The Germans who took an early lead in their race kept their lead throughout the race. However, this lightweight double powered through every stroke to remain in second place right until the end.to push the Italians into third place. The future of this young Irish team is certainly bright.

Team manager Michelle Carpenter said, “This is the first time we have taken so many crews to the junior Europeans in a number of years, as the standard is always very high.

“The whole team were delighted with the results and there was a great amount of work put in by clubs, athletes and the Rowing Ireland junior coaching team. It is a fantastic start to the junior season and shows the talent of the youngsters rowing in our country.”


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