Neville Maxwell defends high performance director appointment

High Performance Committee chair calls for calm amid criticism over Maurogiovanni

Antonio Maurogiovanni, who has very firm beliefs about his style of coaching, has run up against opposition from athletes in the high performance system

Neville Maxwell, the chairman of the High Performance Committee of Rowing Ireland, has defended the committee's choice of Antonio Maurogiovanni as high performance director and urged the stakeholders in Irish rowing to look forward. "There is a need for people to be calm and work together," the two-time Olympic oarsman told The Irish Times.

Maxwell would not be drawn on the specifics of the selection process and the weighting given to Maurogiovanni's short time in the Dutch system, but he said that the Italian had impressed in extensive interviews for the Ireland job. He was also recommended by Gianni Postiglione, the Director of Coaching at Fisa, the world governing body, and Thor Nilsen, the esteemed former Ireland coach.

Maurogiovanni, who has very firm beliefs about his style of coaching, has run up against opposition from athletes in the high performance system and his cutting of Sean Casey as heavyweight coach was unpopular. However, he has generally been favourably received by coaches he has briefed in talks throughout Ireland.

The ultimate verdict on the Italian will be delivered in years to come and depend on how well Ireland does at heavyweight level. The current golden generation of lightweight rowers has boosted the sport in the country, but this weight grade will have just one woman’s boat and one men’s boat in Tokyo 2020, and there is a possibility that lightweight rowing may eventually be taken off the Olympic programme.


Good snapshot

The Irish Indoor Championships this Saturday at the University of Limerick will give a good snapshot of where heavyweight rowing stands. The senior lightweight men's ranks have been thinned out: Paul and Gary O'Donovan are based in New Zealand – as are "new" heavyweights Shane O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan. The UCD lightweight contingent of David O'Malley and Shane Mulvaney, who have been receiving coaching from Dominic Casey, are finishing up a training camp in Seville in Spain.

Last year the top Ireland heavyweight, Sam McKeown, recorded an encouraging time – and a new Irish record – of five minutes 55 seconds for the 2,000 metres. The big man from Queen's could find himself challenged this year by Ireland international Fionnán McQuillan-Tolan of NUIG and giant Castleconnell oarsman Mark Doyle. The women's open section features more proven international talent. Sanita Puspure, fourth at the World Championships in the single sculls, again takes on Monika Dukarska, who showed good World Cup form in 2017 and Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley, who placed eighth at the World Championships as a pair.

The lightweight women's open section has a World Championship finalist in Denise Walsh. As in much of the programme, the underage ranks – which have huge numbers – should be worth watching. Neptune rower Tristan Orlic is set to compete in the junior 18 category, but the ambitious Croatian-born competitor will be one of the tallest at the event.

The image of the week may be that of Eoin O'Farrell showing off his purple Pres one-piece and thanking his coaches at Presentation in Cork after his crew, Relentless, became the fastest from the Republic of Ireland to row across an ocean. They are set to return to Ireland in the middle of next week. Solo oarsman Damian Browne has about four more weeks before he rows into English Harbour in Antigua.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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