Irish crews to gain from experience


THE IRELAND crews at the World Championships on Lake Karapiro in New Zealand will head for home with plenty to think about after taking fifth and eighth places in their finals yesterday.

Ireland coach Joe Cunningham said it was “a good regatta” for his two adaptive crews. The Legs, Trunk and Arms mixed coxed four put the United States behind them as they finished fifth their A final.

However, the Ireland crew of Anne Marie McDaid, Sarah Caffrey, Shane Ryan and Kevin Du Toit, with cox Helen Arbuthnot, were never involved in the hunt for medals which ended with Canada passing out Britain to win gold. Germany landed the bronze.

Karol Doherty of Donegal finished second – eighth overall – after just missing out in a close finish in the B final of the Arms and Shoulders single scull.

The Donegal man, who is in his first full season in the sport, had taken a half-length lead by half-way (500 metres), but Benjamin Houlison of Australia passed him in the final 200 metres to win by just over half-a-second.

Ireland has a very small base of adaptive athletes, and Cunningham is keen for this to change as we head into a year in which good performances will be needed if we are to set up a challenge at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012.

“The standard is rising so fast,” he said. “The key is that we need to keep turning over athletes.”

He said his charges had a “hard winter’s training” ahead of them.

Although Ireland did not send an able-bodied team to New Zealand, Thursday was a good day for Irish athletes.

New Zealand, with Irishman Seán O’Neill in the six seat, made it through to the final of the eight by finishing second in a very exciting repechage.

And Northern Ireland’s Richard Chambers, in the lightweight four, and Alan Campbell in the single scull, both representing Britain, booked places in their A finals with good semi-final wins.

O’Neill is from Limerick but has relocated to New Zealand. He represented Ireland in the men’s four at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Back on Irish waters, the Neptune Head of the River, scheduled for tomorrow at Blessington, has an impressive entry. UCD, University of Limerick and Garda are entered in the men’s senior eight, and there are no fewer than 27 men’s intermediate single scullers entered – 13 from Trinity.

The weather was “absolutely appalling” in Blessington yesterday, according to John O’Keeffe of Three Castles rowing club, but forecasts suggest it may be better tomorrow.

Three Castles, who are based at Blessington, are set to have an inaugural outing at the head, as O’Keeffe is entered in the senior single scull. He said the club is primarily targeted at encouraging rowing in the local area, and Newbridge College and Blessington Community School have had outings on the lake.

Interestingly, former Commercial stalwart Mick Desmond is one of the coaches, and under-23 international Michael Maher, who has become disaffected with Commercial, is set to be a Three Castles oarsman this season.