Ireland trial should see Paul O’Donovan and Puspure top senior rankings in single sculls

Ireland trial to be followed a week later by Erne Head of the River in Enniskillen and the Cork Head at the Marina

The Irish rowing season holds the promise of two bumper weekends in quick succession. The Ireland trial this weekend at the National Rowing Centre is set to be followed by the Erne Head of the River in Enniskillen and the Cork Head at the Marina next Saturday, March 2nd.

The sometimes tricky winds at this time of the year may play a part in both Cork and Fermanagh, but if they are spared the three events promise to showcase both international and club crews. New Ross Head was set for this Saturday, but has been cancelled.

The Ireland trial should see world champions Paul O'Donovan and Sanita Puspure top the senior rankings in single sculls, while the talented crop of juniors and under-23 rowers will be at the NRC in numbers.

The keenest interest may lie in the men's and women's sweep boats. Shane O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan have been vocal in their criticism of not being funded and may be out to make a point in the men's pair. The world under-23 lightweight champions of 2018, David O'Malley and Shane Mulvaney, might have been their closest rivals, but Mulvaney has been injured, and The Irish Times understands they will be absent.

This leaves the newly-minted crew of Patrick Boomer and Fionnán Crowley, two big men with potential but minimal time together. The next trial at the end of March is crucial for selection, and Boomer and Crowley might target a top-class performance there.

The women’s pairs are a more dependable proposition. The crew of Monika Dukarska and Aifric Keogh will be interesting to see, as will the pairing of Emily Hegarty and Aileen Crowley, both of whom have been recovering from injury. Eimear Lambe and Claire Feerick are under-23 athletes, but may also be strong.

Senior eights

Erne Head has established itself as the big season opener for club crews. This year that is the case with knobs on. The first three crews off in the provisional draw are the senior eights from Trinity, who have won four in a row and hold the course record, Commercial, the Irish champions, and UCD, not long back from a big training spell in Seville. Commercial B is the fourth senior eight off.

Four talented junior men’s 18 eights go off from ninth to 12th, led by Enniskillen’s own crew, which is always one to watch – especially if you start ahead of them.

The Colours Races on St Patrick’s weekend are coming down the tracks, and give extra spice to the clash of the women’s senior eights from Trinity and UCD.

Cork’s regatta has the virtue of being sited at the Marina. Crews can bank on this venue being rowable save in exceptional winds.

The Boat Race in London on April 7th may have an Irish angle. Callum McCrae of Methodist may land a place in the second Cambridge boat Goldie. There is more racing for seats this weekend. The Irishman may compete for Methody at the Irish Championships in July.

Coastal rowing

Fisa, the world governing body, has decided to plan for lightweight rowing at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but also to develop a parallel strategy, where coastal rowing would replace the two lightweight events. An extraordinary congress of Fisa in October 2020 will decide on the future of lightweight rowing.

Fermoy Rowing Club has combined with other clubs which use the Blackwater to highlight the deterioration of the weir. An emergency meeting on Wednesday night produced radical proposals, including a plan to run a candidate in the upcoming local elections. Fermoy may also cancel their regatta this year.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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