Espersen pleased by enthusiastic response to early first Ireland trial

Former world champion Sinead Jennings among the list of 216 entrants

If you build it – they will come. Ireland's high performance director Morten Espersen set the first Ireland trial of the 2014 season for this weekend – extraordinarily early by the standards of recent years – and waited nervously for entries.

Yesterday, as the Dane surveyed the list of those who signed up, he was “shocked” with the volume – 82 seniors are among over 216 on the list.

The heartening thing, the Dane said yesterday, is that all the promising athletes from last season have returned.

And in the case of lightweight men and lightweight women, there are also notable additions: former world champion Sinéad Jennings is set to trial, as is Mark O'Donovan, a silver medallist at World Under-23 level who missed last season. Catríona Jennings, who ran in the Olympic marathon last year and has since converted to rowing, is also on board.

Most promising
The open women's group looks most promising of all.


There are 25 entries (including under-23 athletes) for the trial, with Leonora Kennedy and Monika Dukarska, who finished 10th in the world in the double sculls just last month being joined by Lisa Dilleen and Aifric Keogh, who move up from the under-23 ranks, and strong athletes such as Eimear Moran and Helen Walshe, who have not always put themselves forward for selection in recent seasons.

But this set will be further strengthened as the season progresses. Ireland Olympian Sanita Puspure, recovering from having her tonsils out, will not trial but will soon be back in action. And American college students Bridget Jacques, Hillary Shinnick, Laura D'Urso, Ailish Sheehan and Emily Tormey will also be available for selection.

Tormey and Sheehan partnered Dilleen and Keogh in the four which finished fourth at the World Under-23 Championships this year.

Espersen describes it as “an outstanding group”. The focus is on Olympic-class crews, with a women’s senior single and double on the cards.

The focus will also be on the double in the lightweight women's group, where there are 15 entries for the trial. Sinéad Jennings and Claire Lambe, Ireland's premier lightweight woman of recent times, have recorded good times as a double in training earlier this year, but the picture is complicated by the fact that Lambe is based in Australia at present.

Former international Richard Coakley, who is also based in Australia, could come into consideration for the lightweight men's group, as could Tim Harnedy, who is in the United States. Seventeen seniors have entered for the trial, with the lightweight double again set to be the prime boat.

There is a remarkable entry of 25 for the trial in men's open group, an again some athletes, such as Matthew Wray (at Oxford Brookes University in Britain) and Fionnán McQuillan-Tolan, who is at Boston University, may come into consideration.

Espersen talks of the need to develop Olympic-class crews which can make some mark at the 2014 World Championships – a bare year later, the 2015 World Championships are an Olympic qualification regatta. The emphasis will be on crew formation from this weekend and successful triallists will be streamed into training groups.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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