The early season may have been distorted by atrocious weather, but competition comes hard and fast for Irish rowers in the next few weeks.
Take Trinity’s men’s programme: they demonstrated the virtue of winter training as they beat UCD in the Gannon Cup in mid-March.
They will have testing conditions at Lough Rynn this weekend, then compete in assorted line-ups of senior eights at both Neptune and Commercial regattas on April 8th and 9th, before decamping to the National Rowing Centre for the University Championships (April 13th) and Skibbereen Regatta over the following two days.
Skibbereen is always a huge event, but the first Grand League regatta – the series will be sponsored this season by Filippi Ireland – looks particularly attractive.
The senior eight from national champions Commercial will be given its first big test. Trinity, who hope to have five men’s eights in action, could test them, and UCD may also join in battle. Top internationals Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan and Paul and Gary O’Donovan will have returned from Australia and look set to compete for the host club.
O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan, though they are world champions in the lightweight pair, were granted 'world class' funding of €20,000 in the Sport Ireland funding this season. They have decided to compete in the (Olympic class) open pair this season.
Sport Ireland has defended its decision on funding for the six men who took medals at the World U-23 Championships in 2017.
They now get just €40,000 in total for the season ahead. All are lightweights, and Fisa, the world governing body, and the International Olympic Committee have decided that there will be just one Olympic boat for lightweight men, the double, at Tokyo 2020.
Paul McDermott of Sport Ireland said, while he was in favour of retaining lightweight rowing as a big part of the sport, Sport Ireland had to taper its funding with the priority of achieving results at the Olympic Games.
Ireland lightweight coach Dominic Casey said that the overall funding for the Irish system is not in line with other countries. He also thinks it is important to have a group of ambitious athletes around a successful crew.
“If you have a strong group, it more likely the top is better,” he said.
The deficit in funding compared to other countries was driven home by outgoing chief executive Hamish Adams this week.
He told the Oireachtas Committee on Sport that Paul and Gary O’Donovan are set to have a disadvantage in competing in a four-year-old boat in Tokyo. He said that an application totalling €550,000 under the Sports Capital Programme yielded just €66,000, and none was for new boats.
Meanwhile, interviews to find a new chief executive have been held this week, with Rowing Ireland president Eamonn Colclough chairing the interview panel.
The first outing in an international event for Ireland crews will be at the Memorial de Paolo d’Aloja in Italy. The event in Piediluco from April 13th to 15th, fits in with the training camp in Italy which will feature some top women’s crews.
Back home, the Get Going, Get Rowing programme is now set to open a front in Kerry.