Strong Irish team bidding for World Cup glory in Belgrade

Gary O’Donovan and Paul O’Donovan targeting gold in the lightweight double

Sanita Puspure: the single sculler showed terrific form in the Ireland trials and is in action at the World Cup regatta in Belgrade. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Sanita Puspure: the single sculler showed terrific form in the Ireland trials and is in action at the World Cup regatta in Belgrade. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The strength of three levels of Irish rowing – senior international, club, and junior – will be tested this weekend.

Six Olympic-class crews take to the water in the first World Cup regatta in Belgrade; over 100 club crews are entered in the London Metropolitan Regatta; there are two busy days of action at Carlow Regatta.

Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan should be used to the limelight. They had a stunning 2017 and emerged as world champions in the lightweight pair. They opted to go heavyweight, so they could have a shot at Olympic glory.

But their early-season foray in New Zealand and Australia was not promising, and in the Ireland trial they were tested by a newly formed heavyweight crew. They are bigger men, but may not be big enough.

In today’s heat in Belgrade (9.30 Irish time) they take on two Chinese crews, the Czech Republic and Spain, with just one crew to qualify directly for the semi-finals.

O’Donovan and O’Driscoll may need the second chance of the repechages. They are realistic.

“You’re always learning,” O’Driscoll told the Irish Times at the trial. A place in the B Final (top 12 of 22) would be excellent progress.

Gary O’Donovan and Paul O’Donovan meanwhile should sail through today’s heat (12.40), and will be out to claim gold on Sunday. This season they can establish themselves as the top lightweight double in the world.

France are the Olympic and world champions, but the retirement of Jermie Azou is a blow. They are not competing in Belgrade. Norway, third behind silver-medallists Ireland in Rio, entered but withdrew.

Terrific form

Single sculler Sanita Puspure, who showed terrific form in the Ireland trials, should make it directly through her heat (11.30), and confirm that she has shaken off an early-season injury.

Diana Dymchenko of the Ukraine beat Puspure at last month’s regatta in Piediluco in Italy, and this is the Ireland sculler’s chance for revenge. Carling Zeeman of Canada and Puspure should grab the two semi-final places.

The three other Ireland crews are effectively new units. Denise Walsh (25) is determined to be in the one women’s lightweight boat come Tokyo 2020, and today she teams up with the talented Margaret Cremen (19) in the lightweight double.

Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska form an openweight double which may go directly through to the semi-finals from their four-boat heat, while the pair of Emily Hegarty (19) and Aifric Keogh also have a reasonable draw.

The huge Irish entry at London Met is remarkable; on the Saturday alone there are 84 Irish crews entered. The eights champions of Ireland, Commercial, compete in the Champion Cup, alongside NUIG, and right through the day all but two of the top events have Irish contenders.

On Sunday, Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne of the Ireland training group take on the Championship Double Sculls.

Sunday is the bigger day of Carlow’s regatta: it runs from 7.30 to 6.20 with hundreds of juniors rowing.

The rescheduled Dublin Metropolitan regatta is fixed for June 9th, opposite the Ireland under-23 trials at the NRC.

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