Rowing: Ireland’s coxed four into World Junior semi-final
Three other crews destined for repechages after hot day of competition in Racice
Paul and Gary O’Donovan: won silver medal in the lightweight double at the European Championships in Glasgow. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho
Ireland’s senior system has been firing on a number of cylinders – witness the European silver medal for Paul and Gary O’Donovan and the good form this season of single sculler Sanita Puspure – but small countries can have a harder time of it at underage level.
Competition at the World Junior Championships can be fierce. On their first day in action at Racice in the Czech Republic, just one of the four Ireland crews made it directly through to the semi-finals.
The junior coxed four of Conor Mulready, James O’Donovan, Fintan O’Driscoll, Eoin Gaffney and cox Eoin Finnegan can prepare for a semi-final on Saturday after a fine second-place finish behind Canada in their heat.
Three other crews – all competing in Olympic-class events – take on repechages on Friday, hoping to make the semi-finals that way.
Racice was so hot – rising through the 20s in the morning – that the organisers brought racing forward in anticipation of severe temperatures in the middle of the day. Antonio Maurogiovanni, the Ireland high performance director, has paid attention to the juniors and is with them in Racice.
The Ireland team for the senior World Championships in Bulgaria next month grew to eight crews with the announcement of the men’s lightweight quadruple.
Andrew Goff and Ryan Ballantine of the lightweight quad which took silver at the World Under-23 Championships join twins Fintan and Jake McCarthy, who reached the final of the lightweight double at the same event.
Maurogiovanni said that there will be a trial for pararowing single sculling on Friday. Karol Doherty has been contending to prove himself fast enough to join the World Championships team.
Have no doubt that the O’Donovan brothers will be fired up to take gold in Plovdiv. The tenor of their after-race comments at the European Championships in Glasgow came down to: we’ve had a fun year so far, but that stops now as we go on to a big block of training (in Spain) so we can beat everyone at the World Championships. It does not mean they will achieve their aims, but they are a good bet.
Plovdiv will also be an important event for the men’s pair of Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan. They were ninth at the World Cup in Lucerne, 11th in Glasgow (by a tiny margin). A good placing at the World Championships and the season makes sense – and funding should follow.
The recent National Sports Policy report was bang on in identifying the need for more funding and predictable multi-annual funding for top-class sports people.
The juniors in Racice are not the only Ireland crews which have been dealing with high temperatures. The European Masters Championships in Munich also took place in hot conditions. The Ireland team in this growing area won in a number of disciplines.