Irish rowers on right track for Olympics after gold and silver haul at European Championships 

Ireland has four boats qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and the hope is to grow that number in Lucerne next month
Irish rowers on right track for Olympics after gold and silver haul at European Championships 

Fintan McCarthy, left, and Paul O'Donovan after winning the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls A Final at the European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy. Photo by Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Rowing Ireland CEO Michelle Carpenter hailed the Irish performances at the European Championships in Varese, Italy describing the displays as ‘a job well done.’

Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy won gold in the A final of the lightweight men’s double while the Irish women’s four crew — Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh — won the silver medal with a blistering performance.

But medals and podiums aside, there were plenty of positives from the fact that eight crews competed in finals on Sunday with many younger stars gaining invaluable experience..

“To have all those boats in the finals was incredible,” Carpenter said “We are on track.”

She continued: “It is key to be showing this form in an Olympic year. To sum up the weekend - it was a job well done. They are such a young group, I am so proud of them.”

The headlines will rightly be grabbed by O’Donovan and McCarthy who were hugely impressive in taking victory ahead of Germany and Italy.

Carpenter said: “Paul is a phenomenal athlete and what really pleased me is the fact that Fintan is just out of U23 and his performance just goes to show the level that our programme is at.”

The Skibbereen men were second at the halfway mark before making their move in the third quarter and there was only going to be one result once they hit the front.

The Irish came home in 6:18.14 with Germany in 6:19.94 and Italy in 6:21.05.

The world champions were dominant throughout this competition winning their heat and their semi-final.

“It was a decent race, it’s good to be back,” said O’Donovan. “I was off last season so Fintan raced in the single last year.

“Fintan is just dragging me along in the double. We need bigger biceps.

“We’re gonna work on some curls which will see us through to the end of the summer.”

The Irish Women’s four crew came desperately close to collecting gold as well but were pipped by a fraction of a second by the powerful Dutch four.

The winners came home in 6:27.51, with the Irish four in 6:27.96. Great Britain was third in 6:31.27

Aifric Keogh said: “The medal this year means a lot to us because we’re so close to Olympic qualification. A lot of crews from Ireland are already qualified, and for us to be able to finish that close to the Dutch is a really huge confidence boost.” 

Added Carpenter: “I’m delighted for the four. We knew that they have incredible talent but they are a very, very young crew - to see their trajectory over the past year or so is just unbelievable.

Shortly afterwards, the Lightweight Women’s double of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen finished 5th in their A final. Italy claimed the gold in 6:58.66 with the Irish crew - both UCC Rowing club members - finishing in 7:07.42 with Russia in sixth.

Earlier on Sunday morning, Gary O’Donovan finished fourth in the Lightweight Men’s Single A final.

The Skibb star produced a late surge but it wasn’t enough to snatch a place on the podium. The race was won by Peter Galambos of Hungary in 7:01.52 with O’Donovan coming home 4.30 seconds behind him.

However O’Donovan saw plenty of positives: “I would have liked to have been in the medals. It would have been nice to win. I had an alright race. It wasn’t my best race ever. But it was a step in the right direction compared to my previous international race in the singles. I’m much closer to the top guys now that I was before.”

Leap native Lydia Heaphy finished 6th in the Lightweight Women’s Single Scull A final. Alena Furman (Belarus) won in 7:41.81 with Heaphy recording a time of 7:58.70.

Monika Dukarska (Killorglin RC) and Aileen Crowley (Old Collegians BC) finished sixth in the women’s pair final.

The duo were up in the top half of the field before Great Britain’s Helen Glover and Polly Swann pulled clear to win in 7:02.73. The Irish pair came home in 7:11.83.

Earlier this morning, Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne won the Double Sculls B final while Daire Lynch was second in the Single Scull C final.

Rowing Ireland’s High-Performance Director Antonio Maurogiovanni said, “We are delighted that we are taking home two medals, one gold and one silver. I want to congratulate Paul and Fintan for becoming European Champions after a challenging year. I would also like to congratulate the Women’s Four for claiming the silver after winning the bronze in 2020. I am happy with our team’s performance and out of eight crews entered, six reached the A Final in their category, and two achieved first and second in the B and C Finals. On the last day, all our crews raced at their best showing a great attitude. This is the start of our season and we will continue to prepare for months ahead. We look forward to the next World Cup and Olympic Qualifier in May.

Ireland has four boats qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and the hope is to grow that number in Lucerne next month. To help in that process the Rowing boss revealed that the entire Irish team will remain in Italy to continue their training over the coming weeks.

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