Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy climbed into a boat together for a competitive race for the first time in nearly a year today and, well, it was like they’d never stepped out of it.
Olympic champions in the men’s lightweight double sculls in Tokyo last year, they followed it up with a win at the Henley Regatta which O’Donovan joked at the time was the bigger of the two feats. And that was that as a partnership until now.
They took their time to get motoring in their heat this morning at these European Championships but that’s nothing new. The Irish crews have developed a reputation for fierce finishes and they ultimately had almost six seconds to spare ahead of the Swiss in second.
They reappear at the this regatta for Sunday’s final.
Every member of the Irish rowing team that travelled to Germany this week was out on the water on day one of these multi-sport championships, their own business being done at the ramshackle ‘Regattaweg’ which housed their sport for the Olympics back in 1972.
There was an even more comfortable win in the heats of the women’s fours for the crew of Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh, Natalie Long and Tara Hanlon. They had seven seconds to spare on Denmark and they too now look ahead to a final.
Not a bad 25th birthday present for Lambe who, along with Keogh, won a bronze medal in this event at the Olympics in 2021. Their other two partners in that boat were Emily Hegarty and Fiona Murtagh who face a repechage after finishing third and outside the top two in the women’s pairs.
Not ideal but not fatal to their hopes of a podium either. Hegarty and Murtagh had to go the long way around at World Cup II in Poznan earlier this year as well and came away with a bronze there.
Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde claimed a comfortable second in the women’s double sculls behind the Netherlands and they progress to the semi-final, while it’s a repechage for the lightweight women’s double sculls team of Lydia Heaphy and Margaret Cremen.
They finished second of six behind Great Britain but only the winners booked a ticket to the final and the British pair had a mammoth eight-plus seconds to spare on a course that presented a serious headwind throughout the morning.
Also into the repechage route is Aoife Casey who came fourth in her women’s single sculls heat. All eight of the squad’s female members returned to action before the end to contest the women’s eight and they now go on to a repechage as well after their second-place finish. Katie O’Brien and Steven McGowan were the first Irish in action in the para mixed double sculls. They came in fourth of five but will still race the A final on Sunday.