No funding ‘a kick in the teeth’ for O’Driscoll and O’Donovan

Pair were lightweight world champions in 2017 but now Sport Ireland won’t fund them

Ireland’s Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll won’t receive funding from Sport Ireland this year. Photo: Setlev Seyb/Inpho

Ireland’s Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll won’t receive funding from Sport Ireland this year. Photo: Setlev Seyb/Inpho

 

The head of Irish international rowing has said that the decision of Sport Ireland not to fund Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan for this season was “unexpected”. Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni said that the two could yet receive retrospective funding, should they qualify a boat for the Olympic Games at this year’s World Championships.

O’Driscoll and O’Donovan were world champions in the lightweight pair in 2017. They switched to the Olympic-class heavyweight pair last season, taking 16that the World Championships. They were “eligible” for carding, but told they were not “entitled”.

Asked by The Irish Times whether he made a plea for funding for the pair, Maurogiovanni said Rowing Ireland had been working behind the scenes to get more funding over time. “We have been fighting a lot. They say this is what we have.

“It is a decision of Sport Ireland, not our decision.”

He has been allocated €50,000 “for major projects”, but this is to cover men and women, lightweights and heavyweights. The aim, above all, is to qualify boats for the Olympic Games, with the focus on the World Championships in August/September, where the bulk of places are made available. Maurogiovanni specifically identified the lightweight double of Aoife Casey and Denise Walsh, neither of whom were eligible for carding, but “we really want to support them.

“The challenge is quite big, the funding quite low,” he said.

The Italian said Rowing Ireland was grateful for the Sport Ireland funding and that it was wonderful that those who did get carding get it for two years. But Rowing Ireland were hopeful others would qualify. “Mark and Shane but not just Mark and Shane. There’s a pool of athletes there who didn’t get what we’d hoped they would get.”

While it appeared Rowing Ireland got “a huge amount of funding”, the spread over so many athletes and the fact that the carding is part of the overall figure meant that it will be another year of tight finances.

“The good thing is the promise from Sport Ireland that if they [Mark and Shane] qualify the boat for the Olympic Games they will get retrospective funding.”

Maurogiovanni said that his understanding was that this would cover 2019. They would then be funded for 2020 as well once they met the criteria.

Mark O’Donovan told The Southern Star newspaper that the two men did not have money coming in and were in a very hard position. “This is a kick in the teeth for us,” he said.

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