Ireland's Fintan and Jake McCarthy showed that that Skibbereen– and Ireland – have talent coming up fast to take on the mantle of the O'Donovans and O'Driscolls.
The McCarthy twins won their heat of the lightweight double sculls at World Under-23 Championships with a build in pace which delighted observers in Plovdiv in Bulgaria and shocked their opponents. Poland, who started brilliantly and thought they had collared the one semi-final qualification place from the heat were overtaken by 1,500 metres and were beaten by two lengths.
The performance – and even the presence at the regatta – of the crew is remarkable, as Fintan McCarthy broke his wrist earlier this season and could not row for weeks.
Ireland's lightweight pair added to the good mood by winning their repechage. David O'Malley and Shane Mulvaney were in charge right through in the soaring temperatures. Second-placed France joined them in the A Final.
The rise in the standard in the sport here, especially at underage level, was a keynote of the Irish Rowing Championships. But a disappointing note was that top club athletes sometimes steered clear of events where internationals entered. This was understandable, as there is only a pennant for winners, but simply solved: there should be gold, silver and bronze medals. There should be four grades, under-18, under-23, senior and an entry grade for adults.
Club coaches want a pennant on the wall. In every sport there is a balance to be struck between team or club ambitions and the imperative of bringing the competitor to the top level he or she can achieve. There are good senior athletes who contented themselves with intermediate and club titles last weekend. Wouldn’t it better for all – including the great general public, befuddled by myriad titles – if the athlete showed a bronze or silver medal and was able to say: “Do you know who won the gold – that rower on the telly.”
The non-Championship events with their hundreds of young competitors gave the regatta a remarkable buzz and real heft – parking even in the public area came under pressure. Add in hours lost to high winds and this could have been a mess. Not a bit of it. The biggest rowing regatta ever held in Ireland was run in sometimes difficult conditions . . . and yet the final races went off on time. The effort put in by the volunteers was heroic.
Eimear Lambe, who stroked the winning women's eight, is heading off to Germany for a year. Her sister and crewmate, Claire Lambe, who also teamed up with Sanita Puspure to win the senior double, will soon return to Cork to work and says she is looking forward to training with the Ireland squad again at the NRC. She teams up with Olympic partner Sinéad Lynch in the Cycle for Hugh's House early in August: the charity gives accommodation near hospitals to parents of very ill children.