Ireland will have a new top-class rowing course within months. The eight-lane facility at Lough Rynn in Co Leitrim should be ready to stage domestic events by the spring of next year, and the intention of Leitrim County Council is that further phases will bring the course up to the standard to stage international events.
The contractors, which include Northern Irish and Hungarian specialists, will be signed up for the laying of an Albano course in coming weeks, and Joe Gilhooly of Leitrim County Council said yesterday that the spring of next year is the "outer target" for this crucial phase, "but they could very well be in by the end of this year".
This work alone involves the council adding its own funds to the €230,000 it was granted for the project by the the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Further phases, which will include the provision of starting pontoons and a finish tower, will then lift the project up to international standard for rowing and canoe sprint events. "We are in for the long haul," says Gilhooly. "To be realistic, at the start we are looking to build the reputation (of the course). And we hope to move on from there to wherever it leads. We will be committed to the project."
Lough Rynn comes highly praised as a natural lake and Gilhooly, the director of services for Leitrim County Council, says that the area will benefit from tourism.
One man who is set to be a regular visitor is Ireland lead coach Don McLachlan. Yesterday he named the 22 rowers who are invited to join the senior Ireland training squad. In addition to those who impressed at the recent identification trial, Dave Neale, Cormac Folan and John Keohane are named in the heavyweight men's group, with the proviso of being "sick at first trials so will need to show performance".
The watchword of the new regime is flexibility, but McLachlan yesterday deemed February as the general cut-off point for athletes to prove themselves if they want to be in Ireland senior crews next year.