BY KIERAN McCARTHY
FINTAN McCarthy had wondered before what it would be like to become a world champion. When that did happen last Saturday week, it was 100 times better than he’d ever imagined.
It was quite surreal, the latest Skibbereen Rowing Club world champion says after Paul O’Donovan and himself powered to a sensational gold medal in the A final of the men’s lightweight double sculls at the World Rowing Championships in Austria.
Watch this video to hear our interview with Fintan on the latest Star Sport Podcast.
‘It was amazing. You imagine becoming a world champion for so long and it’s just 100 times better than you ever thought it would be. It was really special. I was getting a bit excited and Paul told me to calm down a bit before we got into the slip! It was amazing,’ a thrilled McCarthy told the Star Sport Podcast this week.
The new-look Irish double of Paul and Fintan had been impressive on their way to the final after winning their heat, quarter-final and semi-final, but they did look to be in a bit of bother early in the A final when they were sixth after 500 metres, with Italy and Germany out in front.
But the Skibb men in the Irish double didn’t panic. Even though they’re a new combination and this was only their second international competition together, they stayed calm and pulled themselves into contention by the halfway stage before hitting the front and leaving the rest trailing.
‘The wind changed for the day of our final. It had been flat calm all week, really nice conditions.
‘The conditions were nice for the final too with a bit more of a headwind so we knew the race would be a bit longer. We like that because we really back our fitness, we do so many miles during the winter and on camp. We know we have a really good depth of fitness,’ McCarthy explains.
‘Everyone else tore off and tried to get that margin because we came through during the middle and at the end of the semi-final too so they would have been wary of that. In the end they kind of played into our hands. Because the race was a bit longer it gave us more time to come through and everyone was dying a bit more than us at the end. It worked well.’
Finishing the World Rowing Championships with a gold medal is the stuff of dreams, and Fintan and Paul, by virtue of winning their A/B semi-final on Thursday, also qualified the Irish lightweight double boat for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Again, a first for McCarthy and another huge high.
‘We were targeting the gold all along so the semi-final was just another step in getting to the final where we could fight for the medals,’ the 22-year-old says.
‘It wasn’t really that we were thinking, “let’s make the final and qualify the boat”, it was just about getting through the rounds and getting to the final. Once the semi was over it sank in that the boat had qualified. It’s one of those things that you imagine doing for so long so it was a bit surreal. It was brilliant, really good.’
McCarthy won his place in the double after trials earlier in the summer – with Gary O’Donovan missing out – and it’s been so far, so good for the two Skibbereen men, as the evidence at the world championships suggests.
‘Since we started rowing together it’s been pretty good,’ McCarthy says.
‘Paul said before that as soon as we came together we had most of our speed there already. We had a good trial in June, a few weeks after the Europeans, and that’s why we raced Rotterdam together.
‘Rotterdam was alright and Gary did really well there (in the single) so we had another trial after that which was a bit stressful but I managed to make it through again. We had a really good race in Cork that week too so we kind of knew that we were fast.
‘We went to Spain for a pre-worlds camp, that was about getting a bit fitter so we could put that speed to good use and work a bit more on the technique. It worked out in the end.’