O'Connor and Towey only Irish crew straight through


ROWING: Ireland's lightweight pair of Tony O'Connor and Gearóid Towey, the defending champions, moved smoothly into the semi-finals at the World Rowing Championships in Seville with a win in their heat yesterday, but on a day on which competition was delayed due to a lightning storm, the hopes of some the other Ireland crews took a buffeting once they took to the water yesterday afternoon.

The men's and women's lightweight double and the men's lightweight four must compete in repechages tomorrow to gain a place in the semi-finals after failing to win their heats.

Last July Sinéad Jennings set the rowing world alight with a World Championship gold in only her 10th regatta. The determined Donegal pharmacist then took the brave step of abandoning her winning event, the lightweight single scull, for a lightweight double in the hopes of creating another winning crew in an Olympic event.

However, a neck condition which produces involuntary movement has hampered both training and competiton for Jennings and 2001 national single sculling champion partner Heather Boyle. They competed in only one World Cup regatta this year, at Lucerne, and finished 10th overall. So when they came in sixth and last in their heat in Seville yesterday it was hardly a surprise, but it was a disappointment nonetheless.

Tomorrow morning (9.30) they are set to face Canada, the United States, Romania and Zimbabwe in their repechage.

The men's lightweight double scull of Neal Byrne and Eugene Coakley, who also had only one World Cup appearance under their belts finished fifth in a heat won by Italy, and will face Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands tomorrow (9.58).

The young Ireland lightweight four did well to finish second in their heat to Denmark and will pit themselves against Portugal and Britain in their repechage (10.19).

Towey (25) and O'Connor (33) ensured a less stressful programme with their emphatic win, cruising home with 3.10 seconds to spare over the Netherlands. Chile's Christian Yantani Garces and Miguel Angel Yantani Garces, who beat Ireland into second place in the World Cup regatta in Munich, also qualified for the semi-final as did Italy and the British crew of Ned Kittoe and Nick English.

DETAILS (Irish interest): Men Lightweight Four (Heat winner straight to semi-finals); Heat One - 1 Denmark (H Kristensen, T Ebert, S Moelvig, E Ebbesen) 6:11.76, 2 Ireland (P Griffin, R Archibald, N Casey, D Holland) 6:16.96, 3 USA 6:18.98, Heat Two - 1 Canada 6:08.18, 2 France 6:09.62, 3 Britain 6:11.93. Heat Three - 1 Italy 6:07.73, 2 Germany 6:13.26, 3 Yugoslavia 6:16.14. Heat Four - 1 Australia 6:09.76, 2 Austria 6:14.63, 3 Poland 6:15.73. Lightweight Pair (Heat winner direct to semi-finals); Heat One - 1 Chile 6:52.59 2 USA 6:56.46, 3 France 7:01.38. Heat Two - 1 Ireland (G Towey, T O'Connor) 6:51.24, 2 Netherlands 6:54.34, 3 Russia 6:57.85. Heat Three - 1 Italy 6:48.27, 2 Australia 6:53.02, 3 Denmark 7:00.02. Heat Four -1 Britain 6:45.16, 2 2 Canada 6:49.29, 3 Romania 6:57.97. Lightweight Double Scull (Heat winner direct to semi-finals); Heat One - 1 Australia 6:35.30, 2 Denmark 6:37.25, 3 Spain 6:43.70. Heat Two - 1 Germany 6:30.95, 2 Russia 6:33.85, 3 Belgium 6:40.44. Heat Three - 1 Poland 6:34.44, 2 Britain 6:41.20, 3 Algeria 7:00.44. Heat Four - 1 Italy 6:37.01, 2 Japan 6:37.01, 3 Brazil 6:39.47, 5 Ireland (E Coakley, N Byrne) 6:46.28. Women Lightweight Double Scull (Heat winner direct to semi-finals); Heat One - 1 Germany 7:12.88, 2 Canada 7:15.19, 3 France 7:23.31. Heat Two - 1 Australia 7:17.73, 2 Denmark 7:20.92, 3 USA 7:22.66, 6 Ireland (H Boyle, S Jennings) 7:43.66. Heat Three - 1 Britain 7:18.75, 2 Poland 7:20.47, 3 Netherlands 7:26.45.