Ireland sending just eight rowers to European Championships

Performance director Morten Espersen feels athletes are leaving sport too early

Ireland will send a team of just eight athletes to the European Rowing Championships next weekend. The two Olympic lightweight doubles will be joined by single sculler Sanita Puspure, a men's lightweight pair and Denise Walsh, who won a trial with Sarah Dolan in the lightweight single.

The notable omission is the women's pair. Ireland performance director Morten Espersen said that Leonora Kennedy and Barbara O'Brien, who finished 15th at the World Cup in Varese, had chosen not to go.

Since the men’s lightweight four has also been disbanded (Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan continue in the pair), just one Ireland crew (Puspure) will go to the Olympic qualifier.

The women’s heavyweight group, once the most promising sector, now consists of Puspure alone.


Espersen picks out the decision of Lisa Dilleen to leave the programme at the end of last season as crucial. “Basically, the loss of Lisa had really changed the pair. It was impossible without Lisa.”

The Dane’s critics say that communication with the athletes could be better and that there should be more coaches. Espersen says he could do with more resources and coaches, but argues that the key determinant of success is the hard work done in the gym and on the water.

“You can always do things better. But I don’t think there have been any really big issues. People have to put in the training and do the performances. If they are not doing that, then it is difficult.”

Injuries and illness have restricted some rowers. “But [success] has come down to how much time do they put into the training. They have to see that before they start to question anything.”

International events

Selection trials and international events give a measure. “If their performance is right, they go on. You can’t do much more than that, really,” he says. “There are no miracles. It won’t happen in one or two years’ time. People have to go for one or two years. Some of the athletes stopped too early, I think.”

Neptune have entered crews for the Portadown regatta on Saturday. The junior eight and club eight finals should be competitive. RBAI, Methodist College, Belfast and UCD join Neptune in the club eight entry.

Thousands of Irish girls and boys have been linked into the Olympic effort through the Road to Rio challenge.

In the last week, indoor rowers in schools, clubs and at recent regattas saw their efforts on ergometers credited against the aggregate distance of 9195.97 kilometres from Ireland to Rio de Janeiro. The final leg, 195.97 km, will be held in Trinity College, Dublin, on Friday.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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