Paul and Gary O’Donovan up against it in World Cup Regatta

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll seek to continue their fine season

Gary and Paul O’Donovan with France’s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou who beat the Irish pair to the gold medal  in  the lightweight men’s double sculls in  the 2017 European Rowing Championships. Photo: Getty

Gary and Paul O’Donovan with France’s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou who beat the Irish pair to the gold medal in the lightweight men’s double sculls in the 2017 European Rowing Championships. Photo: Getty

 

As Simon Coveney might have said about Leo Varadkar: only one of his like comes around in a lifetime – a pity he came around in mine. Cork men Paul and Gary O’Donovan might well feel the same about the France lightweight double of Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou.

When they met at the Olympic Games and the recent European Championships, Ireland took gutsy silver medals; France won gold with classy displays. As Gary graciously put it: “The French are just a spectacular crew, like. To be able to race one of the best crews there’s ever been in a lightweight double is just brilliant.”

The rivalry will be renewed this weekend here at the World Cup Regatta in Poznan, Poland. The entry for this event includes China, Japan and the United States. For the O’Donovans, who had little chance to train intensively on windswept waters of Ireland in recent weeks, the task of beating France may seem one for another day. Their heat draw is not easy: they must win, beating Poland and the United States to qualify directly for the A final.

Olympic programme

But two Skibbereen men will be disappointed if they do not win gold. What a year Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll are having. They suffered the hit of seeing the lightweight four removed from the Olympic programme – a decision confirmed by the International Olympic Committee in recent days – but put it aside to concentrate on dominating the lightweight pair.

And dominate they have, taking gold at the first World Cup in Serbia and, with a stunning performance, the European title in the Czech Republic. Here there are just three crews: the battle for gold should be a shoot-out between Britain and Ireland.

Denise Walsh has a bigger task if she is to match her silver medals from Belgrade and Racice. Emma Fredh, who took gold at the Europeans, and Patricia Mertz, the bronze medallist, return in a big field which also includes newcomers America and New Zealand. Just two crews go through directly to the semi-final from Walsh’s heat which features Switzerland and Poland.

For the first time this season the Ireland team involves multiple heavyweight crews. Sanita Puspure and Monika Dukarska go in the single sculls – both are drawn in the same heat. The heavyweight pair of Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley compete. The team also includes para rowers, who hope to receive classification – they will race over 2,000 metres.

Coupe de la Jeunesse

The Ireland international representation this year extends well beyond seniors: the junior double of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen, which took silver at the European Championships, has been chosen to represent the country at the World Junior Championships in Lithuania in August. Ireland will also send strong crews to the Coupe de la Jeunesse, a European tournament, in Belgium in July.

This Saturday, Athlone Regatta at Coosan Point has 117 races from 8.30am to after 6pm. The entry is summed up by two statistics: there are 20 entrants in the men’s masters single and 24 in the men’s junior 14 single. As is traditional, Galway follows on Sunday: the junior men’s 18 eight has a straight final between the Bish (St Joseph’s) and the Jes (Coláiste Iognáid) scheduled for 4pm.

At Henley Women’s Regatta, which runs from Friday through Sunday, the UCD senior four of Ruth Gilligan, Brianna Larsen, Aileen Crowley and Eimear Lambe and Commercial’s Ruth Morris in the senior lightweight single look the pick of the relatively small Irish entry.

The week was a sad one for the family and friends of Paul Giblin, who left this life at just 34. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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