Ireland aim for up to four crews for Olympic qualification

Friday’s three-day Ireland Trial will set the tone for a huge year for Irish rowing

This is a huge year for Irish rowing. As the agm on Sunday in Dublin will hear, 2018 was a year of World Championship gold medals and promise for the future. But at the end of 2019, Ireland will have qualified a record number of boats for the Olympic Games – or not. Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni told the Irish Times that the “realistic goal” is to qualify three or four crews.

Friday brings the start of the three-day Ireland Trial at the National Rowing Centre.

The pair of Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan must target a win here to stake their claim for international recognition as a heavyweight pair this season. Fionnán Crowley and Patrick Boomer – who lost one and won one in their battle with the Skibbereen men in the February trial – would hope to step up this time.

Joining the men’s heavyweight programme is James McAnallen. The big 25-year-old won a bronze medal with New Zealand at the World Under-23 Championships in 2016, rowing in a four. Maurogiovanni says McAnallen is only in the “very early stage” of getting to know the system.


The Ireland double of Ronan Byrne and Philip Doyle, ninth in the world last year, should re-form and claim the high ground.

The heavyweight side the women’s programme is the stronger. There is the prospect of a good pair, and perhaps a four. Given the personnel involved this could be an under-23 four and go on to the Under-23 World Championships, but Maurogiovanni says that the priority is forming crews which can qualify a boat at the senior World Championships in Linz in August/September.

Sanita Puspure is going well and looks a shoo-in for selection for the European Championships in May and the final selection which will come in June and July. “Hopefully we will select the whole team in June and it will be confirmed at the World Cup Three [in Rotterdam in July],” Maurogiovanni said.

Wrist injury

The trial for lightweight men this weekend is complicated by Gary O'Donovan's absence. He has been in New Zealand and, Maurogiovanni told the Irish Times, he has a wrist injury. Denise Walsh and Aoife Casey may form a lightweight women's double.

A lot of work has already been done on junior selection, with a small group of four women and four men being considered for selection for the World Junior Championships in Tokyo, to which we will send “a couple of crews”, according to the hpd. A bigger set is being targeted at the Coupe de la Jeunesse, the European junior tournament, and crews will be finalised after the Cork Regatta in June.

A new PR and Innovation Officer, Stephen King, has joined Rowing Ireland. He was previously with the FAI.

The action for Irish club crews on Saturday comes at the Head of the Foyle in Derry and the big Head of the River in London. Cork Boat Club’s eight go off 28th and Commercial’s two crews 42nd and 43rd.

The refixture of the St Michael’s Head of the River has been cancelled, though a small club event will go ahead on Sunday.

Shane Ryan, an Ireland rowing Paralympian in 2012, is set to row the Atlantic. The Limerick man (30), who is partially sighted, will join a team run by Ralph Tuijn on the journey from Portugal to South America in April of 2020. Ryan was part of the Ireland mixed coxed four which finished 10th at the London Paralympics.

The picture with the rowing piece last Friday was of Paul O’Donovan, not Gary O’Donovan. The mistake was part of the production process. We apologise for the mistake.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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