Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan finish in style to seal the final

Rowing: Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska lose fight for third place to Italy

It is “nice” to qualify a boat for the Olympic Games. Fintan McCarthy says it, and Paul O’Donovan too. They won their semi-final of the lightweight double sculls at the World Championships with a brilliantly judged finish which pipped Germany and held Norway in third. Only then, as they tell it, had they time to relish the meta-achievement of booking a place in Tokyo for the boat.

“I wasn’t really thinking of it beforehand. I was, ‘try to make the final,’” McCarthy says. “There was a bit of a minute after the race where I was ‘Oh yes! We’ve qualified.’”

His face opens up in a characteristically big smile.

Much has been made of this being a new crew, as McCarthy (22) replaced Gary O’Donovan after trials, but they are both from Skibbereen and coached by Dominic Casey.


“Yeh. We all have similar styles [of] rowing,” Paul O’Donovan says. “People are saying we’re not long together, but after a week we had pretty much all of our speed anyway.

“When I sat in with Fintan, we were going well, regardless. We knew then, ourselves, that even the last couple of weeks [in camp] in Spain, we weren’t going to row together much better, but we were, hopefully, going to get fitter. And maybe row a small bit better.”

Gary O’Donovan has had a poor regatta. Later in the day he would stop in the final quarter and finish sixth in his semi-final of the lightweight single sculls, missing out on his A Final.

But when asked if there was a sense of “poor Gary” in how the process has panned out, or whether it is a case of “that’s sport”, Paul answers directly.

“It is ‘that’s sport’,” he says. “I think Gary is saying the same.”

Not cribbed

He talks about how Gary has not cribbed. “When he got beaten out of the double first, he could have said, ‘Oh, I broke my hand and that’s the reason I’m out’, and he could be continuing to say that. But, he’ll say it himself, Fintan was moving the boat better. That’s the way it is.”

The Ireland women’s pair and women’s four also had shots at Olympic qualification. A top three in semi-finals would have seen them through to A Finals and booked the Tokyo slots. Both finished fourth, overlapping with the third place which would have seen them through.

The women’s pair of Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska held second or third place for most of their race. New Zealand were the top crew throughout. The battle behind was initially between Ireland and China.

But the United States raced well and took second by the 1,500-metre mark. Italy then moved, and it became a fight for third between them and Ireland. Italy finished very well and took out the Ireland crew.

There will be a B final for Ireland on Saturday. Finish in the top five of six and the boat is qualified.

It is trickier for the Ireland four. The young crew found good speed in the middle stages of their race to move from sixth to fourth. But their lack of early pace cost them, as they could not best Romania to take third.

They have to finish in the top two of the B final (top eight overall) to book that Tokyo spot. Fourth here gives them a draw in the middle lanes – a huge advantage.

Four Ireland crews compete on Friday. Sanita Puspure and the Ireland double of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne are determined to join Paul and Fintan in their finals and with boats qualified for Tokyo.

That would be nice.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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