Rowing: Antonio Maurogiovanni hopeful Ireland can keep punching above its weight

National trials set for this weekend have been cancelled due to bad weather

Ireland’s Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne celebrate after finishing in second place in the M2x- A Final at the World Championships in Linz. Photo: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

Ireland’s Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne celebrate after finishing in second place in the M2x- A Final at the World Championships in Linz. Photo: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

 

The Ireland trial fixed for this weekend at the National Rowing Centre has been cancelled. A bad weather forecast had put the event in doubt, and Rowing Ireland finally cut the event on Thursday.

The Ireland high performance director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, has told the Irish Times that he thinks the Ireland women’s four will be given the chance to qualify for the the Olympic Games and join the other four boats already through.

“This World Championships has been quite positive, as everyone knows. We have been reviewing all the results.

“Considering the results in Linz, considering the international scenario, it seems that the women’s four could be one boat that we still have a chance to qualify next year.

“There are two spots only, but I am quite confident we have the human resources to have a go.”

The lightweight women’s double are a longer shot, though “the door is still open.”

Maurogiovanni wants to ensure that the good work already done is built on.

“We three medal boats; the chance to win three medals at the Olympic Games [the World Championships yielded two golds and a silver]. We really have to focus on these three, plus one (more) already qualified, the women’s pair [which finished eighth in Linz].

“If we see the progression that the men’s double did from last year to this year I’m pretty confident the top [women’s] pair can have some improvements. Maybe we can aim for the final, the Olympic final.”

Resources are a factor.

“We want to include everyone, including the lightweights, but my job is to make sure that we support the top one, that we don’t have to sacrifice anyone that has a chance to win a medal.”

The resources pledged by Sport Ireland are very welcome.

“Sport Ireland has always been supportive. I think they also have a tight budget. They have to decide how to split the resources (between) the federations.

“I really, really, hope they will take into consideration that we have three medals.”

He says Ireland is outperforming other countries right now in rowing.

“We are a very small country with a very tight budget. We have done a fantastic job from my point of view, we have worked very, very hard, stretching human resources. But that is something that doesn’t guarantee the repetition of success.

“Having success is always very hard; repeating success and improving (on) success is much harder. We need to reinforce the foundation that we have been building.

“I think we are building a very, very good system. The results have proved that the system is good. Even at under-23 and junior level, we have a pathway now that is starting to [yield results]. But the system is so fragile. It can collapse very, very quickly.”

Maurogiovanni lists off big powers in rowing – Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy.

“All these countries that are below us – at the moment – they have three, four, five, six times our budget. More! Ten times our budget.”

“We will work hard. My message is: because we have these (good) results that doesn’t mean these results can be repeated, that it is guaranteed.”

The prospect of a men’s pair or four aimed at the Olympics “seems a little unrealistic”. Again he is not closing the door completely. “The trials are there for that reason.”

“One thing that I want to add, that is good for you to know. At the moment we build this junior group and under-23 group where there are some good heavyweight athletes. I know that it [may be] a little unrealistic, but within this group I will have a look.”

He says this is a project, though comes “after all the rest” is in place.

“It all depends on them. If they show numbers on the ergometer tests, if they show good speed on the water, why not?”

A Rowing Ireland delegation appeared before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on Wednesday as it looked into the challeges facing minority sports in Ireland.

The president of Rowing Ireland described Maurogiovanni as “the Alex Ferguson of rowing.”

Ireland rower Philip Doyle made a strong point (previously rehearsed here) about how the present funding system for athletes – with autumn to April sometimes a fallow spell – can leave them with extended periods where they have to survive with no money coming in. He also brought up the constant irritant of having to pay levies to attend camps. Parents, as ever, often fill the gap.

The chief executive, Michelle Carpenter, told the committee that the lack of media interest was to blame for the lack of sponsorship.

“If your sport is in a virtual media blackout for all but one week of the Olympiad, commercial sponsors are therefore not interested.”

This seems to turn a blind eye to the local papers and, indeed, the Irish Times and other newspapers and websites which put coverage out there, week-in, week-out.

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