Irish rowing events in doubt as strong winds forecast
New Ireland heavyweight coach impressed with tenacity of ‘tough’ rowers here
The forecast of strong winds from the southeast has cast some doubts over this weekend’s action and a final decision will be made on Friday
New Ireland heavyweight coach David McKenzie McGowan says he likes to take time to learn about athletes, but he has been moving fast. Immediately after his appointment three weeks ago the Australian met a group of athletes in camp at the National Rowing Centre; he then observed the heavyweight women’s training group in Italy.
This weekend, he is set to be one of the coaches running the Ireland Trial at the National Rowing Centre.
The forecast of strong winds from the southeast has cast some doubts over this weekend’s action and a final decision will be made on Friday. High performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni is set to be on site.
McKenzie McGowan has been taken by the tenacity of the rowers here. “From what I’ve seen, Irish athletes are tough. That’s important.”
He likes pluckiness. Last November he got to watch the International Rules series in Australia. The Australians were professional and slick, but the amateur Ireland team made a match of it. McGowan (whose great grandfather is from Dublin) says he found himself backing the men in green.
“The Irish played with a lot of heart. They had big hearts. That can go a long way.”
Of course heart is not always sufficient. The athlete must “believe they can do it, know that they can do it”.
“It’s about self-belief. That takes time to build.”
McGowan says the battle to establish self-belief has been made easier by the Olympic silver won by Gary O’Donovan (the world rowing athlete of the month for February) and Paul O’Donovan. In the past week they formed a four with Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan which took a bronze medal at the New Zealand Championships. All four have moved on to Australia and are unavailable this weekend, as is Denise Walsh, who has been training with the Spanish team in Seville.
Paul O’Donovan also took a bronze medal in New Zealand, which was an astounding achievement. The 23-year-old has a good claim to be the top young sportsman in Ireland. He has an Olympic medal and has won the World Championships in the lightweight single for the past two years.
This year, in his off season, he raided the National Championships of two of the top proponents of the single sculls and won a medal, finishing just four and a half seconds slower than the fastest man ever to row a single scull (Robbie Manson, who set the record in 2017) and ahead of the Olympic champion, Mahé Drysdale. These are heavyweights and the event is probably the hardest in a tough international sport.
Is there a list of young Irish sportspeople who can match this?
Strong winds or not, this is a busy weekend for rowing in Ireland. On Saturday there are two events. A strong NUIG contingent have entered the St Michael’s Head of the River, which has been moved to Limerick city from O’Brien’s Bridge because of flooding.
Meanwhile, Trinity College, Dublin, will host a special talk by Robert Treharne Jones, broadcaster and Leander archivist, on the history of three beautiful trophies which date from the early part of the last century. Two were presented to Leander by the people of Cork and the third by Leander to Cork regatta.
The draw for the Erne Head of the River in Enniskillen next Saturday (March 3rd) boasts a top-class entry.
Separately, the search for the next chief executive of Rowing Ireland has begun. The advertisement for the role says that “alternative locations such as the Sports Ireland Dublin campus may be an option” as a base, but this may be a case of splitting time. It is difficult to see how the chief executive would not end up spending much of each week at the National Rowing Centre in Cork.