Medal hopes high as rowers reach Olympic final

Hopes are high that four athletes will win the first Irish rowing medal at the Olympics this weekend.

Hopes are high that four athletes will win the first Irish rowing medal at the Olympics this weekend.

The lightweight coxless fours team, which is led by 34-year-old Olympic veteran, Niall O’Toole from Dublin, are being followed eagerly by rowing clubs across the country.

He and the other three rowers – Paul Griffin from Killarney, Richard Archibald from Coleraine and Eugene Coakley from Skibbereen have been tipped for success by legendary British rower Steve Redgrave.

Olympic Council of Ireland spokesman Jack McGouran said: “They’re a team that were quietly confident they would make the final and now that they have, they’re going hard after the medals. They’re a very strong crew and I think they will do very well on Sunday.”

There is even greater confidence in Skibbereen Rowing Club, Co Cork, where one of the team’s members, Eugene Coakley, began rowing at the age of 14.

Around 40 locals have travelled out to Athens to support him, while his parents and the rest of the town will congregate in the Tsar Bar to support him on Sunday.

Club secretary Bridie O’Donoghue said: “We would be optimistic (about the final). All along we were quietly confident the four of them would be up there.”

Another member of the rowing club, Timmy Harnedy, is a sub for the team.

The Commercial Rowing Club will be gathering at its clubhouse in Islandbridge on the banks of the River Liffey to support their member, Niall O’Toole.

Club captain Gerry Cantan said the 34-year-old rower had boosted rowing in the country since he won the 1991 World Championship in the lightweight single category.

“It’s very positive because rowing is certainly getting a wider profile. In the past the sport had a snobby image because of Oxford and Cambridge but that’s not how it is at all.”

The success of the team has compensated for the exit of the other Irish rowers. Medal hopes Sam Lynch and Gearoid Towey failed to reach the men’s lightweight double sculls final in their heats today.

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