Ireland’s new rowing coach Seán Casey wants to build on O’Donovans’ success

Former Olympian stresses need for hard work – but first must resolve contract issue

Seán Casey arrives in the Ireland system as a new coach – and stresses continuity. The 38-year-old Kerryman, an Ireland Olympian in 2008, comes to the role having been head coach with Reading University.

While Dominic Casey will oversee lightweights, Casey has been tasked with taking charge of the Ireland heavyweight men and heavyweight women, and he says he wants to build on the strength of the system put in place by Morten Espersen and its success in yielding an Olympic silver medal for Gary and Paul O'Donovan.

“A huge stumbling block has been gotten rid of,” he says. “People can see the potential and hopefully say, ‘why can’t we do it ourselves?’. These [impediments] can be built up in people’s minds. But they’ve seen people go out and do it now. It’s just a matter of, do the work, do the preparation for it and they will also be able to go out and do the same.”

Casey is focused on the future, but while he has started coaching at the National Rowing Centre, he is doing so on a temporary basis. He will only be contracted for the next four years if Sport Ireland provide the funding.

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“That’s not a pleasant situation to be in. Hopefully the situation will be resolved. There’s a lot of other stuff happening in life – you can’t just be doing this for goodwill. That [the contract] will have to be resolved at the beginning of the new year.”

He hopes to call on some of the talent which has left Ireland on scholarships. The Muckross man was a scholarship student himself.

Breakthrough

After graduating from Temple University he stayed on in the United States and represented Saugatuck in the Diamond Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta in 2002, reaching the semi-finals.

He came into the Ireland system and was part of an early breakthrough for new Ireland coach Harald Jahrling, when the Ireland four took a bronze medal at the World Cup in Munich in 2005. The four went on to qualify for the Olympic Games, where they finished 10th.

In the run-up to Beijing, Jahrling was effectively replaced as coach of the lightweights, but Casey was not critical of Jahrling's tough programme in the way some of the lightweights were.

Casey, who has a masters degree in sports performance from University of Limerick, now says that he wants to talk about his own coaching rather than Jahrling's, but the German's emphasis on hard work is echoed in much of what he says. "[Success] takes time and it takes hard work. If you look at the O'Donovans, that's something they never shied away from."

Sam McKeown recently bridged a gap of 15 years for Irish rowing when he broke six minutes for 2,000m in ergometer tests and Casey believes there are other good heavyweights around. The European Under-23 Championships are in September. It is a great chance for promising competitors to make a breakthrough under Casey.

If he is given the chance.

Meanwhile, on the water this weekend, Castleconnell hold the ‘Dirty Dozen Challenge’, with World Championship bronze medallist Lukas Babac a special guest.