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Brief respite for Irish rowers before return to USA

Three O’Donovans and Shane O’Driscoll bound for Boston’s Head of the Charles Regatta

Paul O’Donovan: the World Championship gold medalist faces a busy programme in the coming weeks. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

The glorious images of Florida, with four World Championship finalists and two gold medals, may linger in Irish minds, but for top Irish rowers the focus is already switching to other venues.

Gary and Paul O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan fly back to Ireland this weekend, and have just a brief respite before all four return to America to compete at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston on the weekend of October 21st.

They have entered the championship doubles, with the O’Donovan brothers competing against O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan.

Ireland’s Sanita Puspure is part of a ‘super eight’ of top scullers, which includes five of the six World Championship finalists. Puspure also teams up with World bronze medallist Magdalena Lobnig in the women’s championship doubles.

Gary O’Donovan, who did not compete in Florida because illness had curtailed his training, will face action even sooner. The Skibbereen man is one of 113 men’s single scullers entered in the Irish Open at the National Rowing Centre next weekend, October 14th and 15th.

Those who competed in Florida are exempt, but the Open is the entry point for those who hope to represent Ireland in the season ahead. Monika Dukarska, though entered, will be in France defending her single sculls title at the World Coastal Rowing Championships.

The men’s lightweight four has been removed from future World Championships. The boat gave Ireland good days on international waters, and carried many top athletes.

Yet the rebalancing of the sport to allow women to compete on the same basis as men is freighted with opportunity. The numbers of women competing will go up, but in Florida just 12 women’s fours and 11 pairs competed.

Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley rowed to eighth in the pair, which would put them in the picture for qualification for Tokyo 2020 if they can hold it until the World Championships of 2019. They may have carved a path for ambitious Irish women.