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Irish rowers head for Fours’ Head of the River on the Thames

O’Donovan brothers win special praise from President as he hosted Skibbereen Rowing Club

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll: they won a World Championship gold in Sarasota, Florida, six weeks ago. Photograph: EPA

Florida, Boston, Áras an Uachtaráin and the heart of London. Rowing may not quite be in the league of motor racing and private jets, but some of the top Irish lightweight rowers are on a roll just now.

This Sunday it is the Fours’ Head of the River on the Thames. Shane O’Driscoll, Mark O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan team up with Niall Kenny, who is based in England, in a crew which is drawn sixth in the star-studded race from Mortlake to Putney.

O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan won a World Championship gold in Sarasota in Florida six weeks ago, then travelled on to the Head of the Charles in Boston, where they did well. At the same event Gary O’Donovan teamed up with his brother Paul to take second in the Championship doubles.

Paul O’Donovan is not rowing in London. The Olympic medallist and world champion in the lightweight single sculls will be honoured on Friday in Dublin as a UCD Alumni Winner – the youngest ever.

The O’Donovan brothers won special praise from President Higgins as he hosted Skibbereen Rowing Club last weekend. This remarkable club has had a wonderful year. Indeed, it has been a great year for the Ireland rowing team. The team members returned at different times. There is no plan to host a reception which honours the whole team.

The pace of the new season picks up from this point on. Skibbereen host their head of the river at the Marina in Cork on Saturday with a fine entry, and Bann host theirs in Coleraine. Both have rowers who will be honing their skills for the Ireland trial on November 18th and 19th.

First opportunity

“It’s the first opportunity for me to [see] a domestic assessment,” the Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni told The Irish Times.

This is a time of opportunity for women. There are more places available at World Championship and Olympic level now that the women’s four have replaced the men’s lightweight four in both programmes.

Monika Dukarska returns to the system after a year in which she showed good form in World Cup regattas while self-funded. The Ireland senior pair of Aileen Crowley (Old Collegians) and Aifric Keogh (UCC) which finished eighth at the World Championships is set to take on some interesting combinations.

The men’s senior and under-23 lightweight crews, which were so successful this year, will compete at the National Rowing Centre. There are 10 entries in the men’s open weight single sculls, including Fionnán McQuillan-Tolan, who competed for Ireland at the World Championships. It is understood that Patrick Boomer, who partnered the NUIG man in the pair in Florida, has chosen to spend time in Australia.

Huge entry

The All-Ireland Indoor Schools Blitz, set for Friday, November 10th, at Trinity College has drawn a huge entry of 900. This event, for secondary school students, will kick off a series which will culminate in an on-the-water test in April.

Michelle Carpenter, who has been the force behind the blitz and the Get Going, Get Rowing programme, has been chosen as the team manager for the Ireland junior and Coupe de la Jeunesse teams for 2018 through 2020.

Susan Dunlea will perform this role for the senior team; Denis O’Regan for the under-23s; and Lisa O’Callaghan for the Home International group.