Only one aim for Olympic heavyweight four


ROWING:KERRY SPORTS people don't tend to lack ambition. Back home in Killarney for a short break before he heads off to the Olympic Games, Seán Casey treats a question about the aim of his crew, the heavyweight four, as if it need hardly be asked.

"I don't think anyone is going there (Beijing) without the aim of trying to win hardware," Casey says. "Why else would you go to the Olympics?"

The boat qualified last year, but the crew which lines up for the heat in Beijing two weeks from tomorrow will be racing together for the first time. New team member Jonno Devlin joins Casey in the middle of the boat, with Seán O'Neill switching into the crucial stroke seat previously held by Alan Martin, who loses out. Cormac Folan will be in the bow.

Casey says things have been "going well" in training, and speaks of the newness of the formation as an advantage in a class which has seen a churn at the top this season. Britain has had a number of combinations, and previous top-guns New Zealand have struggled to maintain their form.

"We're one of the untried boats going into the last few weeks. And it is a good position to be in. I think that freshness is actually helping us, giving us a good edge at the moment."

Casey, along with Paul Griffin and Cathal Moynihan from the Ireland lightweight four for Beijing, were honoured at a Muckross club function in Killarney last night. The Olympic rowing team will fly out on Sunday morning.

By then Ireland may have at least one crew preparing for an A final at the World Championships for non-Olympic events in Linz, Austria.

Sinéad Jennings is a strong tip to make it through today's semi-final (10.24 Irish time), but Eugene and Richard Coakley also hope to make the top three in their semi-final (10.42).

"I don't think it is an insurmountable task," said Eugene Coakley yesterday. They were very pleased with their performance in the first three-quarters of their repechage on Tuesday. "We're definitely in with a shot if we reproduce the first 1,500 from yesterday and have a good closing 500 metres," added Richard.

Ireland's first crew into action is the men's coxed pair of James Wall, Alan Martin and Mike Griffin (10.06).

Ireland did not enter a crew in the World Junior Championships, which is being held in conjunction with the senior tests. However, the eight-medal haul at the Coupe de la Jeunesse last weekend augurs well for next year.

"It's a fantastic situation for us, given that half the men's team and all but one of the women will be under age again next year," said Ireland team manager Michael R Hughes.

There is less encouraging news on the facilities front, however. The plan to build a world-class rowing and watersports centre near Portadown has hit a rock which may sink it. Craigavon Borough Council refused to back the ambitious project at a meeting this week. Those behind the plan continue to hope the forces which support the centre, which would cost about €25 million, can come together to overcome this obstacle.

One of the stars of the season, Caroline Ryan, who is a garda based in Pearse Street in Dublin, was honoured on Wednesday night in a special ceremony at the Garda Boat Club in Islandbridge. The Kildare woman won at Henley Royal Regatta, Women's Henley, and twice at the National Championships. Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy was on hand to praise Ryan.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - Today (Irish interest, times Irish):10:06 - Men's Pair, coxed - Semi-final: Ireland; Serbia; Australia; Canada; US; Ukraine. 10:24 - Lightweight Women's Single Scull - Semi-final: Hungary; Italy; Ireland (Sinead Jennings); Canada; US; Denmark. 10:42 - Lightweight Men's Pair - Semi-final: Ireland; Switzerland; Britain; Serbia; Netherlands; Austria