Rowing: Skibbereen on brink of surpassing rivals Neptune in record books

Cork club set to make history at the Irish Rowing Championships

Skibbereen Rowing Club is set to make history at the Irish Rowing Championships this weekend. The west Cork club, which was founded in 1970, is tied at 150 titles with Neptune (founded 1908), but Skibbereen are a good bet for at least three titles this weekend at the National Rowing Centre, and it would be a surprise if they do not sprint past their Dublin rivals and become the most garlanded club in the country.

The guiding spirit of Skibbereen, Dominic Casey, will not be around to witness the moment he has been looking forward to for years. For the first time since 1980, when he competed as an oarsman, he will miss the championships. He is in Spain at a camp in his role as coach of Paul and Gary O’Donovan, two Skibbereen men who will represent Ireland in Rio.

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, the Ireland lightweight pair for next month’s World Championships, should haul in a number of honours in the next few days. The senior pair, senior double (where Sean Jacob and Dave Neale of Old Collegians form sterling opposition) and senior quadruple are in their sights. O’Donovan also competes in an unusually open senior single sculls.

Traditional rivals

Another international, Denise Walsh, strokes a Skibbereen/UCC women's eight which will hope to beat traditional rivals UCD and Trinity for this honour. Walsh is also part of a senior four and pair and competes in the lightweight single.


In the senior single she takes on recent Ireland internationals Monika Dukarska and title holder Siobhán McCrohan.

The men’s junior single could also be a shoot-out between international team-mates. Daire Lynch of Clonmel and Ronan Byrne of Shandon form an Ireland junior double which is being targeted at the World Championships. In the junior men’s eight, Portora seek their third consecutive title, and their junior women also defend their crown.

If the event is open to the criticism that adult competition has been dwindling and junior athletes form the bulk of the entry, the men’s senior eights bucks the trend.

There is an impressive entry of eight crews, with UCD entering two. Queen’s University mount a challenge, augmenting their strong pair of Tiernan Oliver and Philip Doyle with the power of Sam McKeown of Portadown.

Portora and UCC might produce on the day, while Trinity, the defending champions, will hope it all comes right at the end of a disappointing season.

Commercial and UCD are the form crews, while NUIG come into the regatta on the back of a win at Cork regatta. If UCD’s top crew put it together they should win.

Commercial have been named the overall winners of the Grand League series. They won the Division One men’s and women’s categories in the regatta series, which was limited to Skibbereen and Cork regattas.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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