Ireland break new ground by sending out a women's eight to compete at a major championships this weekend. The crew, stroked by Emily Hegarty of Skibbereen, will represent the country at the inaugural European Under-23 Championships in Kruszwica in Poland.
The five other women's eights, led by Germany and Britain, will provide tough opposition, but Ireland coach Sean Casey says that fielding a women's crew in this regatta is part of the effort to build towards the World Championships of 2019, where Ireland hope to gain Olympic qualification.
“It’s a big step up for these women. For a lot of them it will be their first experience at this level. It’s all with the aim of qualifying a women’s four in two year’s time,” said Casey.
Andrew Goff will also compete in Poland. The UCD man will race in the lightweight single. He was originally teamed up with Niall Beggan of Commercial in a lightweight double, but Beggan pulled out ill. Goff and Beggan took bronze at the World Under-23 Championships as part of the lightweight quadruple.
The women’s programme for next season should be interesting, as Ireland seek to take advantage of the increased size of the Olympic openweight programme. Women can now compete in the same classes as men: the four is added to the single, double, quadruple, pair, four and eight.
Monika Dukarska should come strongly into the reckoning in the 2018 season. The Killorglin woman will compete in Arklow at the Irish Offshore Championships next weekend (September 9th and 10th) in the single.
The regatta (which has a record entry of 53 crews, with entrants from France and Wales) will serve as a qualification for the World Rowing Coastal Championships. Dukarska is the defending world champion in the single so does not have to qualify.
The World Coastal Championships will be held from October 13th-15th in Thonon, France. This is a direct clash with the new dates for the Irish Open at the National Rowing Centre (October 14th and 15th). According to Casey, the new siting should facilitate clubs who will be busy registering members now that the season runs from September to September.
Dukarska, who says she will hope to join the Ireland squad for 2018, has been told she does not have to compete at the Irish Open.
The event is the first mandatory competition for rowers who hope to represent Ireland in the season ahead. Competitors at the World Rowing Championships in Florida in September/October are also exempt.