Board of Rowing Ireland moves closer to right gender balance

Breda Leader hopes feats of O’Donovans will encourage young people to take up sport

The changes keep coming in Irish rowing. The new honorary secretary of Rowing Ireland will be Breda Leader, a club rower who has a background in administration in rugby. She has served as secretary of AIL club Galwegians and was PRO for the club’s academy.

Leader will be the first woman to hold the role of honorary secretary of Rowing Ireland, though not of its predecessor, the old Irish Amateur Rowing Union. "I will be another voice at the table, another slant," she told The Irish Times.

Indeed, in the week that International Women’s Day was celebrated, it is noteworthy that the board of Rowing Ireland is set to have a healthy balance of women and men. Three of the six representatives from the provinces which have already voted are women, and Lisa O’Callaghan is likely to emerge from the Munster agm in the week ahead. This would see a representation of five women on the 11-person board.

Delegates to the agm on March 25th will choose between two candidates for president, Eamonn Colclough of Tribesmen and Kieran Kerr of St Michael's. Leader is the sole nominee for honorary secretary. Outgoing honorary treasurer Dan Buckley is also unopposed. There are more than 40 motions, though about half are procedural.


Leader says she would like more people in their 20s to take up the sport and that young people are very taken with the feats of Paul and Gary O’Donovan. “It is an exciting time for rowing,” she says.

Important fixture

That was evident at the Erne Head of the River at Enniskillen on Saturday. This was a superb event, helped by the good weather. Eighty five crews completed the course, with clubs such as Cork Boat Club welcome additions to this important fixture on the calendar. The Olympic buzz has boosted clubs right through the island: Methodist College, Belfast, has 98 in its rowing programme this year.

The Portora masters eight featured Keith Nixon, the father of Holly Nixon, who was the first Ireland medallist at the World Junior Championships (she took silver in 2011). Holly won a World Championship gold in the British four in 2016 and excelled in the recent British senior trials, where she won the five kilometre single sculls race. Peter Chambers was the top lightweight man, while Joel Cassells was sixth.

The Kerry Head of the River on Saturday will feature 100 competitors in mainly local crews. The standout rower is single sculler Monika Dukarska. The Killorglin woman is also secretary of the event, which has been revived after a break. Killorglin hope to stage it in January next year.

One of the big attractions of the Head on the River Laune is the striking topography of the area. A new rowing event, the Wild Atlantic Challenge, will have similar attractions. The race will feature different craft and will be run along the Kenmare coastline in May. The promotional video shows off the area in spectacular fashion. It can be viewed on

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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