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Blessington rowing event in doubt as weather worsens

Ireland high performance director sparks debate with call for running in programmes

The Neptune Head of the River at Blessington may not go ahead due to weather conditions

The Neptune Head of the River at Blessington on Saturday features the men’s senior eights from Commercial, the Irish champions, and Trinity, under new coach Richard Ruggieri.

The American took over at Trinity on July 23rd, just after the Irish Championships, and has been impressed with the hard work and humility of his charges. “They are a good bunch,” he says.

They are also numerous: he has 27 rowers and three coxes in the senior men’s group, allowing the club to put out three eights. Charlie Cunningham continues as a coach with the novice group, where there are 40 oarsmen.

Cunningham, who worked with the seniors until Ruggieri’s arrival, is set to row on Saturday – as the bowman of the Commercial eight.

The weather forecast for the head changed for the worse through Thursday, and the head might yet be called off.

The Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni is in the middle of a series of open briefings in which he is outlining his plans for the sport in the country. Leinster and Ulster were first, with Connacht and Munster next up.

Generated interest

The Italian has certainly generated interest – the meeting at Neptune on Wednesday prompted debate from the floor and was over three hours long. Maurogiovanni, who also met university coaches this week, has surprised (and pleased) observers with his contention that top rowers should include running as part of their programme.

NUIG has been one of the best-performing universities in the country for over a decade. David Mannion, their coach, has set a high bar for any of his rowers if they are to enter the high-performance system: they must reach 95 per cent of the projected world best time.

This looks set to limit NUIG’s contribution to the programme – at least in terms of raw numbers. But Mannion believes that no ambitious rower should be entering the system just to appear at an international event. “Do you want to be serious about it, or go and get a kit bag?” he asks.

He has monthly tests for his athletes and believes some may enter the system come the first trial on November 18th and 19th. If not, some may improve enough to be considered later in the season, if consideration is given to rowers or crews at that stage.

The closing date for entries for the Irish Provinces Indoor Rowing competition is less than two weeks away, on Wednesday week, November 15th. The event will be held at the University of Limerick on November 25th.