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Paul O’Donovan and Denise Walsh set up medal chances

Three Irish lightweight crews ready to go for gold at World Championships in Florida

Paul O’Donovan: won his semi-final yesterday to secure his place in the lightweight men’s single sculls final in Florida. Photograph: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

Paul O’Donovan and Denise Walsh won their semi-finals at the World Rowing Championships in Florida on Thursday to set up a golden hour for Irish rowing.

Between 5pm and 6pm on Friday evening, Irish time, three Irish lightweight crews will go for gold. The pair of Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll compete in the A Final at 5pm, followed by scullers Paul O’Donovan (5.15) and Walsh (5.30).

Michael Schmid of Switzerland led for much of O’Donovan’s semi-final, but the Skibbereen man drew level going into the final quarter and then powered away to win by a length. Behind both, Uncas Batista of Brazil snatched an unlikely third from the fading Pole, Artur Mikolajczewski.

O’Donovan has dropped out of the lightweight double and yet finds himself up against one of his Rio opponents in the lightweight single finals a year later.

Kris Brun of Norway has campaigned in the single since Rio, where he took bronze with Are Strandli in the lightweight double – just behind the O’Donovan brothers.

“It’s good,” said O’Donovan. “I was talking to him after Lucerne [the World Cup] where he finished fourth. I gave him a bollocking. I said he was letting the side down, the lightweight doubles, like.”

There has been a big turnover at this event of lightweight single scullers. O’Donovan is the only one who has made it back from last year’s final. And it is a younger field.

“I’m one of the older ones, or at least I’m in the middle,” O’Donovan (23) said. Brun is the only one who looks to have a chance of beating the defending champion.

Walsh led for more of her race but Mary Jones of the United States and the Swede, Emma Fredh, never let her take a clearwater lead.

“It was hard today –very hot. And it will be later again tomorrow, so should be even hotter,” Walsh said.

Why did she go hard to beat Jones and Fredh, when a place in the top three would have been enough ? “Well, Dominic told me to go out and win!”

She said she was also happier to have the middle lane.

O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan will be hot favourites to take gold; their heat win left them with a five-day layoff. If they go into the final right they should complete a perfect season; they have already taken gold in three World Cup regattas and the European Championships.

Walsh’s final is the least predictable. Kirsten McCann was a faster winner of her semi-final. If Walsh can produce in the stifling heat again, she and McCann may dispute the gold in the closing stages.

Sanita Puspure competes in her semi-final of the single sculls at 4.15. The men’s C Final for places 13 to 18 is scheduled for 6.50pm.