All eyes and phones on O’Donovan brothers at Indoor Championships
Records broken at Irish Indoor Rowing Championships, world of hard work returns
Paul and Gary O’Donovan in action at the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships. Photograph: Stephen Kiely/Just look at the lens Photography
For the throng of youthful spectators it was all about the O’Donovan brothers. Records were set at the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships - the entry and the attendance hit new heights, too - but young eyes and phones in the University of Limerick sports hall on Saturday were trained on Paul and Gary.
The two finished first and second in the lightweight men’s open class, with Paul O’Donovan setting a new Irish mark of six minutes 7.4 seconds, a tenth of the second better than the one he set last year.
The O’Donovans were sited in the middle of the front row, but in the back row a determined big man was making a claim to be the leading story. For 15 years Irish men have found the six-minute mark for 2,000 metres on the ergometer unbreakable: Sam McKeown covered it in 5:55.0.
The Queen’s University oarsman, who has spoken of his admiration for Paul O’Donovan, had followed his example. “You just have to put in the mileage,” his coach, Mick Desmond, said, and McKeown said his programme has been “relentless”.
In November he hit 5:59 and he thinks he might get to 5:52 this year.
“Mileage” might not be as sexy as their soundbites, but the O’Donovans’ continued rise depends on it. In their camp in Seville, from late December to January 15th, they did 40 kilometres a day on the water. They are in better shape now than they were last year, which brought them to Olympic silver in the lightweight double.
Both men are conscious that it is January, and they are unlikely to reproduce their stunning trajectory of 2016. “We made a big jump in summer last year,” Paul said.
Hard work was also evident in the other winners: Daire Lynch (18) set a new bar in terms of hours put in on the ergometer when a junior and he pulled 6:10 and was best under-23 man.
Shane O’Connell (19), just back from Seville, took the under-23 lightweight title. The training camp in Spain had also clearly benefited Sanita Puspure and Denise Walsh, while Claire Lambe swept in from Cambridge and showed good form.
Puspure presented her Olympic singlet to beaming Bann girl Hannah Scott, the best junior 18 woman. Ross Corrigan took the equivalent men’s title, a full 4.5 seconds ahead of Barry O’Flynn. Corrigan, a cousin of golfers Leona and Lisa Maguire, competed for the new Enniskillen RGS club, the successors to Portora. The club is open - Corrigan is actually a pupil of St Michael’s in Enniskillen.
Late in the day, the hall had to be evacuated because of a fire alarm, but the competitors were able to return. By then the O’Donovans had gone. Clear of the milling crowd and back to the welcome world of hard work.