Just short of 100 of Ireland's best rowers, from Olympic medallists to teenagers seeking their first Ireland one piece, gather for the Ireland trial at the National Rowing Centre on Friday.
The team for the World Cup series, which begins with the regatta in Belgrade in two weeks' time, will be chosen after the trial. Surprisingly, few enough places are nailed down. Gary and Paul O'Donovan are going well in training, and the Olympic silver medallists in the lightweight double look set to head up a team which should also include Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll, the world champions in the lightweight pair, now campaigning as heavyweights.
Whether other heavyweight men will be on plane to Serbia has to be decided. Ireland high-performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni says he would be happy to see it, but it is more likely that if a crew is to emerge it will be for the final World Cup in Lucerne in July. A group will be chosen and they must train at the NRC. "Rowing is a team sport; we need to have this young group training together."
For the heavyweight women's group the trial should also be instructive. At the World Championships last year the women's pair of Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley finished eighth and single sculler Sanita Puspure fourth. Into the mix have come, amongst others, Monika Dukarska and Emily Hegarty, who can still compete at under-23 level. There are more Olympic places available now for women, and it will be interesting to see what boats are formed as Ireland look to Tokyo 2020. The lightweight women's group looks even more fluid, with no certainty as to outcomes.
The trial is “front-loaded”, with a big programme on Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is left free.
The trial for juniors will produce an Ireland squad. They will go on to camps, and the final trial at the end of June will then choose which crew or crews – if any – competes at the World Junior Championships. The Ireland crews for the Coupe de la Jeunesse at the NRC in July will also emerge from this process.
One of the most successful Ireland competitors in the Coupe was a certain Paul O’Donovan. He won medals in 2009 and 2010. “He must have been about six in 2009,” Gary joked. He had turned 15 three months earlier.
Bann woman Hannah Scott won with the Princeton Ivy League eight at the weekend, while Castleconnell juniors were named the best junior club at Ghent International Regatta. Castleconnell stage their popular Sprint Regatta this Saturday, May 19th. The huge programme has races in quick succession from 9am to 5pm – using five lanes.