Dominic Casey a pivotal figure in Skibbereen rowers’ success

Inspirational coach’s crews have a positive mental attitude and remember rowing is fun

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll  celebrate on  the podium after winning the Lightweight Men’s Pair final during the  European Rowing Championships in Racice, Czech Republic. Photograph: Martin Divisek/EPA

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll celebrate on the podium after winning the Lightweight Men’s Pair final during the European Rowing Championships in Racice, Czech Republic. Photograph: Martin Divisek/EPA

 

Rowing can involve a lot of waiting around. This time we were marking time until the arrival off the water of Paul and Gary O’Donovan after their very promising semi-final performance at the European Championships in Racice.

So, I sat on the bank with Dominic Casey looking out on the play of the blazing sunshine on the central European lake . . . and we talked about Skibbereen Rowing Club.

It’s been a bit of a ritual for Dominic and The Irish Times. At each successive Irish Championship, I seek out him out. How many titles is that, Dominic? A slight delay – and then: 146, 157, 163.

Skibbereen Rowing Club, from a small town in west Cork, was the cheetah in the undergrowth, stalking the big Dublin, Limerick and Galway clubs, pulling each down and moving on to the next victim. By last year they had all fallen. This is the most successful Irish rowing club. Ever.

And yet, in the blazing heat of Racice, Dominic Casey was getting animated. If Skibbereen had not provided so many top rowers to the Ireland team they would have even more titles. The Coakleys, Eugene and Richard, Tim Harnedy all the way to the present crop. They could have had more.

Insistence.

It is not a word used much for top coaches, but it is the one which springs to mind when you think hard about what makes Casey special.

Look at the crews which Skibbereen have produced under the quiet, self-effacing coach. They will physically give their all; they will not make excuses; they will recalibrate after defeat and hunt down the crews which beat them.

Three finals

Since they were first introduced to the water, they will have lived with and ingested Dominic’s expectation of excellence.

And, yes, they will have a certain anarchic quality.

We settle down again after Dominic’s musings on Irish championships not won, and talk about rowing coaches and what they do. He will have a heavy schedule on the Sunday: he is determined that even with three finals and (the justified) hope of three medal ceremonies, everybody will be on the plane home within a few hours of competing.

So much of his job is just that – work behind the scenes so that there is no extra pressure on the athletes.

But he always has to be there when the crews launch.

Why?

A playful smile flits across his face. The familiar little delay.

He has to be there because that is when he spins the crew, gives them something to bite on. And often sets them laughing.

Positive mental attitude. You can take a lot of punishment, work until you are spent, if your head is right. And there is enjoyment to be had.

All three crews Ireland which came off the water and headed for the podium at the European Championships were sweat-sodden and shattered. All three insisted on one thing.

It was fun.

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