‘Dream is over’ as hopes for Irish fours sink

THURSDAY’S ugly storm clouds passed and sunshine returned to Shunyi Park yesterday but it proved another grey, miserable day for Irish rowing.

The lightweight fours crew of Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Gearóid Towey and Cathal Moynihan finished fourth in their Olympic semi-final in 6.13.85 behind Denmark (6.05.75), France (6.07.26) and Great Britain (6.08.75).

Poland, Canada and Holland qualified from the other semi.

None felt like taking the mixed zone challenge in the aftermath and so it was coach John Holland who faced the firing squad of microphones and camera crews.

If he felt this bad, then how must the quartet have taken it? He picked his words slowly and carefully.

“The dream is over,” he announced solemnly.

“There was no dynamism to their stroke. I haven’t got the reason why. It wasn’t the start; it was through the body of the course.”

Holland admitted: “We dreamed of gold. There is no question about it. I felt we were at the pace of this. Look at the Poles (who pipped Ireland in the heats) they got through and won the other semi, look at the Dutch, they were behind us in the repechage and are through. We are at the pace of it, we just didn’t row today as we can and that is the big disappointment, the major disappointment. There is nothing that we left undone. I don’t have a reason as to why that wasn’t there.”

The Irish crew looked to have again started sluggishly but pulled themselves back by the 1,000 metre mark and were exerting huge pressure on the third placed French, who had wilted in the closing half of last Sunday’s heat. But this time the French timed their second half run to perfection to come home behind the fast-finishing defending champions, Denmark.

Holland, who insisted Tuesday’s repechage had not emptied the tank, said the quartet’s race plan was simply to stay with the field from the start and hunt down any stragglers.

“I think we did that in the first 250m, we were a second and a half down on the leaders.”

And then for some inexplicable reason, four years of hardship, training and dreaming was undone.

“It became a heavy stroke at that point and they never got out of it.

“That life and dynamism that you need to get the zip into it didn’t come.”

And then, for Holland, it was like watching a car crash play out in slow motion over 800 yards.

“I suppose around 12 to 1500 metres out, when we normally push, I thought we would have got in touch with the French. But they were the ones that moved out and left us. After that, we were not going to get it. If there was any boat we could get a hold of at that stage, it was the French. We have had ding dong battles all year with them and I hoped when we got to the thousand metres we normally have a good second thousand but it was the French that moved rather than us. I knew it was gone at that stage.”

With Towey, Archibald and Griffin, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, on the wrong side of 30, London 2012 may be an Olympics too far for a trio of rowing legends.

“It is certainly the end of the road for two and maybe three of them,” admitted Holland, who helped Greece to a rowing gold four years ago. “This is their rowing career ended. They will be retiring.”

Meanwhile the heavyweight fours finished fourth in the Olympic B final at Shunyi Park yesterday and tenth overall. The crew of Sean O’Neill, Sean Casey, Jonno Devlin and bowman Cormac Folan came home in 6 mins, 07.97 secs behind New Zealand, the Netherlands and the USA.

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