Irish rowers win gold and silver at European Championships

O’Donovan and McCarthy triumph in double sculls as Women’s Four place second

 Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning the lightweight men’s double final at European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy. Photograph: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning the lightweight men’s double final at European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy. Photograph: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

 

Rowing again captured the imagination of the country, when two Irish boats made it to the podium in the finals of the European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy, for a gold and silver weekend.

The lightweight pair of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, convincingly won the gold medal to add to the World Championship gold they won in 2019, while the Women’s Four of Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh, came from a slow start in their final to edge out Britain for the silver medal behind the gold-winning Dutch boat.

The second place for the women is an upgrade from the 2020 bronze medal the boat won at last year’s European Championships in Poznan, Poland, and leaves the Irish athletes more hopeful of qualifying for this summer’s Olympic Games.

“We are delighted that we are taking home two medals, one gold and one silver,” said Rowing Ireland’s high-performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni. “I want to congratulate Paul and Fintan for becoming European Champions after a challenging year. I would also like to congratulate the Women’s Four for claiming the silver after winning the bronze in 2020.”

Surprise

Given the lightweight pair’s pedigree at championship level, the gold medal was more a restatement of class than a surprise. Again, they emphasised that the boat is one of the fastest in the world with stroke O’Donovan and McCarthy starting conservatively before ploughing through the field.

Trailing in third position, their ever-increasing strength allowed them take second place and then, inevitably, the lead over the final 500m stretch of the still water course.

O’Donovan, a Rio Olympic Games silver medallist with his brother Gary, who came home fourth in his European final in the lightweight men’s single sculls, cut a striking figure with his retro look of long dark beard and hair to below his shoulders.

But the student doctor will take his eighth championship medal across Olympics, World and European Championships and with McCarthy try to build on something for July as the rest of the world now see them as the major medal threat.

Hegarty, Lambe, Keogh and Murtagh also began their race in low key mode and were third behind the leading Dutch and British crews hitting the 500m mark over the 2,000m course. But they only grew stronger as the race progressed sprinting in at the end to tag the British boat and trail the Dutch only by a canvas.

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