Rowing: 11 Ireland crews set for World Championships

Men’s lightweight double and women’s single teams expected to secure places for Tokyo

Four years ago, Ireland made a huge breakthrough in rowing. Paul and Gary O’Donovan squeezed over the line in 11th at the World Championships in Aiguebelette in France and qualified the boat for the Olympic Games – by .28 of a second.

A year later they would take silver in Rio, riff about “stheak and spuds” and become household names. They were the first Ireland crew to take a medal at Olympic level.

Eleven Ireland crews will compete at this year’s World Championships which starts on Sunday in Linz, Austria. Seven are in Olympic classes and targeting places in Tokyo.

Two of those are world champions, though Fintan McCarthy has replaced Gary O’Donovan in the lightweight double. Sanita Puspure dominated the women’s single last year. This year’s programme was affected by the illness and, sadly, death of her sister, Inese. Both crews are up against formidable opponents; both look good tips for medals and may even reach the top of the podium.


Assuming these two boats can be pencilled in for Tokyo – and there are just seven places in the lightweight double at this regatta – how many can emulate them?

Good training stint

The men’s double of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne arrive at Linz in fine order: a silver medal at the final World Cup in Rotterdam and a good training stint in Italy. The women’s pair of Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska took sixth in Rotterdam and have also trained well.

From there the shots are longer. Last year, Aifric Keogh teamed up with Emily Hegarty to take sixth in the world in the pair. Keogh has been training but not competing this season because of an illness. She forms a new four with Hegarty, Eimear Lambe and Tara Hanlon, three of the four which took silver at the World Under-23 Championships.

The men’s pair of Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan and the women’s lightweight double of Aoife Casey and Denise Walsh must make a leap to hit the target. Gary O’Donovan will hope to claim a medal in the non-Olympic lightweight single.

Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni has drawn a strong line around the team, with no athletes, coaches or staff available to talk about the event.

The death of paralympic rower Dzmitry Ryshkevich after a capsize on Wednesday at Linz highlighted the rare but real chance of tragedy in the sport.

Back home, Myross won the blue riband event at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships in Dingle. The Cork club took the men’s senior title. Kerry’s Sneem won the women’s senior. Clubs from Dublin ruled the Heritage class, with Dalkey winning the senior men’s title.

Today, Friday, the National Rowing Centre will be the site of the Irish Coastal Rowing Championships, a Rowing Ireland event hosted by Whitegate club. The two-day event has an entry of 330 crews.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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