O’Donovans to face Olympic rivals in European title defence

Brothers who won silver medal in Brazil up against French double in Czech Republic

Paul and Gary O'Donovan will get a chance to take on the crew which beat them by half a second at the Olympic Games, when the Ireland lightweight double defends their title at the European Rowing Championships.

There are 21 entries for lightweight double at the championships in the Czech Republic next weekend – and they include Olympic gold medallists Jérémie Azou and Pierre Houin. France held off Ireland in a thrilling finish to the Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro last August. The French crew did not compete in the European Championships last year.

This year's contest, with heats next Friday, May 26th, will not be binary. Britain's Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher won the first World Cup regatta in Belgrade, while Ireland took fourth. The Ireland team travel from their base in Gavirate in Italy up to the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Four Ireland crews will be in action in the European Junior Championships which starts on Saturday at Krefeld in Germany. The event will give the Ireland coaching team a good steer on how our young talent slots into the international rankings.

Ireland are a surprisingly experienced group. Aoife Casey of Skibbereen (daughter of Ireland coach Dominic) represented Ireland as a junior at the World Championships in 2016, while her partner in the double, Margaret Cremen competed in the Coupe de la Jeunesse last year and took a bronze medal.

The promising men's pair of Aaron Johnston and Ross Corrigan, both from Enniskillen, competed in the Coupe in 2016 as part of a four. Johnston could actually represent Ireland in four different regattas as a junior – he also competed in the Coupe in 2015, and could go on to the Coupe again this year, or even the World Junior Championships.

The men’s quadruple is drawn from four clubs: James Quinlan is a Castleconnell clubman, Matt Dundon is from Clonmel, Jack Keating from Carlow and Barry O’Flynn from Cork Boat Club. O’Flynn competed at last year’s Coupe.

The women’s pair of Gill McGirr and Ellie O’Reilly from Fermoy are the newcomers: they have a year remaining as juniors. Krefeld has been warm and rainy and conditions should be good for the weekend.

Meanwhile, the nomination for the role of High Performance Director for Irish rowing will go before the board of Rowing Ireland on Sunday.

Grand League

The Lee Rowing Club, Cremen’s home turf, holds their regatta on Saturday at the Marina in Cork. The sprint event runs over 500m and gives young rowers a chance to race on a calm course.

A week later, the Metropolitan Regatta at Blessington, Dublin, is a Grand League event and features a clash between three top men’s senior eights: Commercial, UCD and Trinity. The low water levels mean the course – already laid – will most likely run over 1,900m.

Lough Rynn will join the Grand League series next year, with the award of a two-day event a fine reward for Leitrim County Council’s development of the venue.