IRELAND’S rowing future looks ‘totally oarsome’ after a phenomenal team performance at the World Championships in Sarasota, Florida in September. Skibbereen’s remarkable lightweight pair Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll continued their unbeaten season by adding the World crown to their European title in a year in which they also won all three World Cups.
Paul and Gary O’Donovan
Paul O’Donovan, forced to make a late change of plan after brother Gary got a virus, successfully defended his world lightweight single title, destroying the field with his trademark power. Had Gary been fit the Olympic silver winners would undoubtedly have been vying for double sculls glory where, in their absence, their great French rivals again won gold.
Sanita Puspure was only pipped for bronze by three tenths of a second and finished her injury-disrupted season fourth in the world in single sculls. Denise Walsh also made the lightweight singles final to finish ranked sixth in the world in a season in which she also won European silver.
Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley
Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley finished second in their B final, which ranked them eighth in the world and the other new heavyweight pair of Patrick Boomer and Fionnan McQuillan-Tolan were 16th overall. Two medals, a fourth and two more ranked in world’s top eight was a sensational team result and Ireland finished sixth overall on the overall table behind Italy, New Zealand, Australia, France and Holland.
The collective performance reminded Irish rowing fans of Lucerne 2001, when Ireland won three golds. Then, as now, they were won in non-Olympic events. Since Rio the lightweight men’s four has been dropped from the Olympic programme so there will only be lightweight men’s and women’s doubles in Tokyo 2020. But what was particularly encouraging in Sarasota was the depth of the Irish squad, the massive competition for places in the lightweight men’s double and the promise in heavyweight classes.
National coach Dominic Casey said: “There is a strong group of lightweights there at the moment. It keeps everybody training and working hard. The big challenge now in Irish rowing is heavyweights, to get more people involved and up to the mark.”
World U23 Championship
In a season that also included bronze in lightweight men’s pairs (Shane Mulvaney & David O’Malley) and lightweight quadruple (Niall Beggan, Stephen O’Connor, Andrew Goff & Shane O’Connell) at the World U23 Championships plus a first ever medal at European Juniors – silver from Margaret Cremen & Aoife Casey in women’s doubles – Irish rowing has never looked so powerful.