Paul and Gary O'Donovan take to the water in Lucerne in Switzerland this weekend as World Cup leaders. If they win in this final regatta of the series they will be crowned World Cup champions.
Standing between them and this honour are France, the Olympic gold medallists – and the one crew the O'Donovans have not beaten. Should Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou win and Ireland take second, the two crews will tie on points but France will take the final yellow jersey as overall World Cup winners in the lightweight double for 2017.
The deciding factor would be the most recent win.
Three times since August the crews have met: the Olympic Games, the European Championships and the World Cup regatta in Poland last month. Each time, France have had enough to hold off the Irish. Lucerne will provide another battle in the fascinating series which will run at least until the World Championships later this year. And perhaps all the way to Tokyo 2020.
For Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, the challenge is to continue the gold medal run so thrillingly put together at two World Cups and the European Championships.
The lightweight pair is not part of the World Cup series and the Ireland crew had just two rivals, Britain and Brazil, at the World Cup in Poznan, but the race was engaging and exciting. This time out there are six crews. O’Driscoll and O’Donovan will again be ready for a challenge to their golden ambitions.
Other Irish crews
Ireland have two other crews here in Lucerne, single scullers
. They engaged in their own battle in Poznan, though at least this time they are in different heats (three and five). Come the B final, the young pretender Dukarska lost out, but by just 3.55 seconds (they placed seventh and ninth).
Puspure is a superb athlete, but her form has been frustrating. Twenty-five will compete in Lucerne, and the tip for gold will be Austria's Magdalena Lobnig, who set a new world's best time in Poznan. Puspure, who has dealt with illness and a family bereavement recently, is not six places behind that mark. This is her chance to show that.
Puspure and fellow Olympian Claire Lambe have been drafted in by UCD to create an Old Collegians/UCD eight which will compete at the Irish Championships next weekend (July 14th to 16th). With 1049 crews, the event (including non-Championships competitors) is the biggest regatta ever held in Ireland. Skibbereen have drafted in all three O'Donovans and O'Driscoll into a stellar men's eight which should win - but the women's senior eight promises to be a fascinating contest.
The UCD/OC composite will be serious contenders - but not certain winners. Olympic oarswoman Sinéad Lynch is part of a St Michael's crew which is rowing in memory of Ailish Sheehan. NUIG and Cork have formed what looks like a formidable outfit, with Lisa Dilleen stroking; Commercial have their own ambitions - and a returned Cambridge rower in Sally O'Brien and an excellent stroke, Ruth Morris.
However, the form crew is the Skibbereen/UCC composite. Stroked by Denise Walsh, they were superb winners at Cork Regatta.
And Skibbereen crews like to continue good runs.