Big turnout expected at Castleconnell Head of the River

River Shannon event has almost 400 crews from 20 clubs entered

What may have been the busiest ever October for Irish rowers – the new Irish Open elegantly finding a place in the programme of international and local events – concludes with a high-performance camp at the National Rowing Centre (NRC) and the Castleconnell Head of the River on Saturday on the Shannon.

There is novelty in the Castleconnell event, in the shape of the Bulls and Bears race, where two completely new men’s and women’s eights, formed from the top pairs of the morning session, race against each other over a mile on the attractive stretch between O’Brien’s Bridge and Castleconnell.

Regatta secretary Owen Silke says he is pleased with the entry of almost 400 crews. There are 20 clubs on board, stretching from Sligo to Waterford.

The interviews for the high-performance coaching roles are being held this week. Some of the candidates also involved in this weekend’s high-performance camp.


Media work

Morten Espersen has put a premium on training over six-kilometre stretches. The course at the NRC will run a further kilometre than the usual 2,000 metres, and will be covered twice to create the six kilometres.

Their extensive media work might give them a high profile but Paul and Gary O'Donovan will also be at the NRC over the weekend putting the miles in on the water – a crucial component in their splendid performances in 2016. Last weekend they formed a combination crew with the British heavyweight double from the Olympics, Jonny Walton and John Collins, to record the fastest time in the Directors' Challenge Men's Quads at the Head of the Charles in Boston.

Sanita Puspure also returns to Cork with a winning record from the HOCR – she was part of the Great Eight of top scullers which dominated the Championship Eights, and she teamed up with Magdalena Lobnig in the Championship Doubles and finished second to Kimberley Brennan (the world and Olympic champion in the single scull) and Emma Twigg.

Monika Dukarska guaranteed that it would be a memorable weekend with her win at the World Coastal Rowing Championships in Monaco. However, the Killorglin woman may not be in the Ireland high-performance programme in the season ahead.

The Coastal Rowing "solo" champion was absent from the Irish Open and told The Irish Times that she will "assess" her position on participation in the Ireland high-performance programme early in the New Year.

Starkly put, Dukarska, who grew up in Poland, would be a player in the Poland system, and perhaps their best single sculler. In the Ireland system, where Puspure is the queen of the single, Dukarska could be part of a crew boat. But where are her likely crew-mates?

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in rowing