O’Donovan brothers take centre stage at Irish Open rowing regatta

Olympic medalists set guage up against the best of young Irish talent at NRC

If you want to become excellent, be around excellence. Olympic medallists Paul and Gary O'Donovan and double Olympian Sanita Puspure are the headline acts at the Irish Open regatta this Saturday and Sunday at the National Rowing Centre in Cork.

The best young club athletes can have a tilt at these and other successful internationals in the first trial of the new Olympiad. Those who are good enough will be given a programme to help them improve.

Ireland high-performance director Morten Espersen has already had a big group of athletes and coaches at the NRC in recent weeks to gauge talent.

“We have a good idea already of where some stand. The Irish Open will have transparency.”


A novel aspect is that the trials on Saturday will be for pairs and single scullers, but new crews can come together on the Sunday. Some of these looking interesting – there is a Trinity/UCD composite men's four, a rare combination. Espersen also championed the idea of having medals for winners, another unusual aspect in a trial.

The Dane oversaw the placing of an advertisement for new coaches for the High Performance system this week – but his own contract finished at the end of September and he has not signed a new one. He says the situation is “pretty relaxed” and he is working on a rolling contract. “I will not run away,” he says. “I will have to see what kind of contract they offer.”

Medical issue

If the huge entry of young athletes is impressive, there is a notable paucity of senior women – just seven.

Sinead Lynch

has a medical issue and

Claire Lambe

has been given permission to stay in Cambridge where she is now based.

Monika Dukarska

, a recent medallist at the World

University Championships

, is a notable absentee. The


woman, who has dual Irish and Polish citizenship, was one of those who was unhappy with the programme for heavyweight women in recent years. She will compete in the World Coastal Rowing Championships in


in two weeks’ time. Her coach

Mike Flemming

says she “is not short of options”.

Options abound for the Olympians. Paul and Gary O'Donovan and Puspure are off to the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston on October 22nd and 23rd. Puspure will row in a quite stunning "Great Eight" on the Sunday.

The crew, with their positions in the single sculls in Rio, is: Kim Brennan (1st), Genevra Stone (2nd), Emma Twigg (4th), Jeannine Gmelin (5th), Magdalena Lobnig (6th), Mirka Knapkova (7th) Carling Zeeman (10th), Puspure (13th). Cox Erin Driscoll is superb over this course. Puspure will partner Lobnig in the championship doubles.

The Dublin Sculling Ladder time trial is also set for this Saturday at Islandbridge. It has drawn a big entry in recent years, though it will be interesting to see how the Ireland Trial will affect it.

The Cork Sculling Ladder has been postponed – twice – and will take place on Sunday, October 16th.

The Get Going, Get Rowing initiative, which has been a success in Leinster and Connacht will be rolled out into Limerick, with a grant of €17,000 from the Dormant Accounts fund.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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