Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy book Olympic spot

Irish lightweight double won their semi-final at World Rowing Championships in Austria

Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy became the first Ireland crew to qualify their boat for the 2020 Olympic Games. The Ireland lightweight double won an exciting semi-final to secure their place at the A Final at the World Rowing Championships here in Linz-Ottensheim. The top seven from here qualify, and there are just six places in the A Final.

The Skibbereen men judged it perfectly. Germany and then Australia made their moves early. By 1,000 metres, Ireland had moved into third.

Coming into the final quarter, Norway came right up with them. Ireland nailed it from there, eking out a lead coming up to the line. Germany held on to second, while Norway finished fast and took third.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska came up just short of the third place which would have given them an A Final place and qualification for the Olympics.


New Zealand were the outstanding crew in this semi-final and won from the front, leading through all four quarters. The battle behind was initially between Ireland and China. But the United States raced well and took second by the 1500 metre mark. Italy then moved, and it became a battle for third between them and Ireland. Italy finished very well and took out the Ireland crew.

There will be a B Final for Ireland, where they will have to be in the top five to qualify the boat.

There was a thrilling moment in the women’s four semi-final when it looked like Ireland might quickly add another Olympic qualifier. Third place would do it. The crew of Tara Hanlon, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty had overcome a non-competitive first quarter and began to push up from sixth. They took fifth and then, with 500 metres to go, fourth. They were right on Romania and kept pushing, but the could not quite get there.

Fourth place gives them a place in the B Final - first or second and they have the boat qualified for the Olympics.

Gary O’Donovan, racing his fourth race in five days, looked wrung out at the end of his semi-final of the lightweight single sculls. In the middle stages, he briefly seemed to be in contention for a place in the top three, but in the last quarter he slowed right down and finally paddled over the line in sixth, setting him up for a B Final.

Lydia Heaphy gave it a good go in her semi-final of the lightweight single. She was well in contention through to the final quarter - she was joint fourth at 1500 metres. But when the sorting out happened, Heaphy (21) slipped back to sixth.

World Rowing Championships, Linz-Ottensheim, Austria - Day Five (Irish interest)

Men Lightweight Double Sculls - A/B Semi-Final Two (First Three to A Final; rest to B Final): 1 Ireland (F McCarthy, P O'Donovan) 6:13.46, 2 Germany 6:13.59, 3 Norway 6:14.15.

Lightweight Single Sculls A/B Semi-Final One (First Three to A Final; rest to B Final): 6 Ireland (G O'Donovan) 7:34.01.

Women Four A/B Semi-Final Two (First Three to A Final; rest to B Final): 1 Australia 6:25.34, 2 Denmark 6:28.58, 3 Romania 6:30.96; 4 Ireland (T Hanlon, E Lambe, A Keogh, E Hegarty) 6:32.37.

Pair - A/B Semi-Final One (First Three to A Final; rest to B Final): 1 New Zealand 6:57.92, 2 United States 7:01.78, 3 Italy 7:01.80; 4 Ireland (A Crowley, M Dukarska) 7:03.05.

Lightweight Single Sculls A/B Semi-Final One (First Three to A Final; rest to B Final): 6 Ireland (L Heaphy) 7:42.23.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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