All-Irish semi-final at Henley

 

ROWING: IT HAS been a less-than-glorious Henley campaign for Ireland, and the only remaining eight, Queen’s University, made their exit yesterday from the Temple Cup.

However, one Irish crew will be in tomorrow’s semi-final draw, as UCD and Gráinne Mhaol/NUIG race each other today for that honour in what could be a cracking quarter-final of the Visitors’ Cup for intermediate fours.

Queen’s were beaten by three-quarters of a length by RSV Universiteit Okeanos, a lanky Dutch crew with a fast start.

Rob Edmondson, who has taken charge of Queen’s at Henley, had anticipated his crew being behind early on, and Queen’s made repeated pushes, which pulled the lead back from three-quarters of a length to half a length. But even a final push at the enclosures did not rock Okeanos.

Queen’s were a “selected” (seeded) crew, but Okeanos were bigger, Edmondson said. “They had legs up to their arms,” he quipped.

UCD’s four big men in the Visitors’ Cup – Dave Neale, Finbarr Manning, Gearóid Duane and Seán Jacob – will hope to make their heft count today.

The Gráinne Mhaol/NUIG crew of Eddie Mullarkey, Alan Martin, Cormac Folan and James Wall go in as outsiders after a below-par performance at Marlow, but they are reportedly training well.

They might just upset the odds here.

It is not overstating it to say that a whole season may turn on this race. The winners have what looks a very good chance of making the final – the Leander crew which is, mystifyingly, seeded to come through opposite them is eminently beatable.

But, more importantly perhaps, whichever Irish crew wins today (especially if it is emphatic) will be hot favourites for the senior fours title at the National Championships.

And, since these crews form the core of the senior eights, they will move into the box seat for the biggest Irish prize of the year.

In a nice irony, the contest for the impressive Leander trophy for men’s senior eights at Cork regatta tomorrow features entries from both UCD and NUIG/Grainne Mhaol.

The big entry and the possibility of favourable weather at the National Rowing Centre give this regatta a chance to end an unsatisfactory Grand League series on a high note.

The entry of Muckross in the Division One women’s eight gives the event an interesting twist, and there are bumper fields for Division One of the men’s (44 entries) and women’s (22) single sculls.

The Afloat Rowers of the Month for June are the Rowing Ireland/ Portora crew which won the elite quadruple title at Henley Women’s Regatta. Eimear Moran, Lisa Dilleen, Holly Nixon and Sanita Puspure had four lengths to spare over a British combination crew.

Enniskillen woman Nixon, though still in her teens, has recently being taking huge chunks off her personal best times on the ergometer.