Rowing: Castleconnell Head of the River attracts bumper entry

Irish lightweight group head for Spain to continue preparations for Olympic pre-selection trial

Castleconnell Head of the River continues to grow. Saturday's event, with an entry of 500 crews from around the country makes the claim to be the biggest head of the river ever held in Ireland.

The stretch of water between Castleconnell and O’Brien’s Bridge is good in most weather and the event has not suffered the plague of cancellations which others have had to put up with.

The growth area of junior rowing amongst girls and boys is well represented: there are seven men’s junior 18A eights and 22 junior 18A single scullers.

Seventeen girls entered the junior 16 single sculls class and 25 male single scullers at junior 15 level. One of races of the the day should come in the eights in this class: Enniskillen's two junior 15 crews take on St Joseph's and Coláiste Iognáid from Galway and St Michael's from Limerick.


The Bulls and Bears event, in which the top pairs form two eights which race each other, offers a novel twist and some sports gear for those who are invited to take part.

On the international scene, an Irish lightweight group head for Spain for a camp, while the heavyweights go to Italy. Paul O’Donovan, the top lightweight in last weekend’s trial, will train in Ireland while continuing his medical studies in UCC.

The trial highlighted how Ireland international rowing has moved into a new phase. The next five months in the run-up to the pre-selection trial at the end of March, will decide, for the most part, who is going to Tokyo and who is not.

Four boats are qualified: only Sanita Puspure in the single looks nailed on as a certain selection. Ronan Byrne – who had a wonderful trial – and Philip Doyle look the best crew in the double.

Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley, who qualified the women's pair, also topped the rankings at the weekend. Here the situation is complicated by the aim of qualifying a women's four next year. Will that four include one or both of these women? If a crew is successful in the qualifier, in late April in Italy, the rowers who do this must take that boat to Tokyo.

The final boat, the men’s lightweight double, should be Paul O’Donovan and AN Other. Shane O’Driscoll put his hand up as the next in line, but Fintan McCarthy, who qualified the boat with Paul O’Donovan, was very unlucky to have his arm seize up, which saw him withdraw from Sunday’s action. Gary O’Donovan is fiercely determined to regain his place, and Jake McCarthy is also still in the hunt.

The big Ireland team which travels to Hong Kong for the World Coastal Championships which begin on Friday (November 1st) will be glad to learn that the sport is soon to have an event with big cash prizes.

At the end of November, Monaco is hosting the Challenge Prince Albert II. Entry will be by invitation and there is the promise of €27,000 in prize money: €500 for winners down to €100 for fifth “per crew member” according to the official website.

The workshops to discuss the future of Irish rowing, led by Ireland high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni, are set to be run over the next week: Cork Friday, 25th; Galway, Tuesday 29th; Dublin, Wednesday 30th; Belfast, Thursday 31st.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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