Rowing high performance director Morten Espersen looks to Denmark system

Niall Kenny and Justin Ryan set for Copenhagen training camp

Sanita Puspure: Ireland’s only women’s rowing success at London Olympics.  Photograph: Inpho

Sanita Puspure: Ireland’s only women’s rowing success at London Olympics. Photograph: Inpho

Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 07:00


There certainly is a very different feel to the international system in Ireland under high performance director Morten Espersen than there was to his predecessor, Martin McElroy. The push to learn from and reproduce the excellence and measurement standards of the huge British system has given way to a practical tending of talent and a realisation that small countries must do things differently.

Espersen played a big part in building the structures in Denmark, which has a comparable population to Ireland, but far exceeds it in terms of international success – and Ireland athletes Niall Kenny and Justin Ryan will soon get a chance to look at this system up close.

They form a promising lightweight double scull and will take part in a three-week training camp in Copenhagen in the run-up to the European Championships on the first weekend in June in Seville. It should give the Irishmen a chance to learn from the best, as Denmark are the reigning Olympic champions in the lightweight double scull. Espersen, who is working on a much lower budget than McElroy’s, says that the cost to the Ireland system will be low.

On the women’s side Espersen has been tracking two US-based rowers. Limerick’s Ailish Sheehan is at Notre Dame University and Emily Tormey is an Irish-American from Seattle at Yale University. Espersen hopes they may form a pair for the World Under-23 Championships this year. The pair will be first looked at at Henley in June.

The Ireland trials for women have been brought forward to the weekend after next at the National Rowing Centre. The men’s and junior trials are set for the following week.

Espersen stresses his focus is on Rio 2016. Irish women rowers in the US such as Laura D’Urso and Holly Nixon may not come into the reckoning until next season.

At home, likely high winds from the southwest has forced the postponement of Skibbereen’s and Irish Universities’ and Schools’ Championships. Neptune Regatta found safe water in the middle of the two weather systems. And a Neptune man, Con Cronin, has been nominated as the president of Rowing Ireland. Susan Dunlea of Monkstown and Cork Harbour has been nominated as treasurer. The agm is in Dublin on April 21st.