Skibbereen star wins West Cork Sports Star award and two golds at London Met
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
DENISE Walsh has added to her growing medal collection.
The European lightweight single silver medallist won two gold medals at the London Metropolitan Regatta last weekend, alongside Skibbereen Rowing Club’s Aoife Casey in a lightweight double, and on Monday night Denise (24) picked up a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star May monthly award for her European Championship success.
These are busy times for the Skibbereen woman who also won silver in the lightweight single at the opening World Cup regatta in Belgrade last month.
Hopping back into the double last weekend alongside Aoife Casey – daughter of Rowing Ireland High Performance Coach Dominic Casey – gave Denise and Aoife (just turned 18 and a European junior silver medallist) the opportunity to experiment and gauge where they’re at with the double.
Long-term, and looking ahead to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Denise wants to represent Ireland in the lightweight double, so last weekend was about dipping their toes in the water.
And with wins on both Saturday (7:17) and Sunday (7:13.27) it was encouraging return for the Skibb duo, enough to take gold in the regatta’s elite championship double sculls.
‘It was a really good weekend,’ Denise said.
‘Going over we didn’t know what the competition would be like so we went there and stuck to our own race plan.
‘It was the best that we have ever raced together. We have raced together a few times here in Ireland but they weren’t as good as last weekend.
‘We made more improvements on the second day, too, which is a good sign.
‘We could have got faster times because we weren’t pushed at the line – but we did work really hard in the middle of the race. It was a really good experience for us.
‘I’m not sure what’s happening in the future with the double, there are a good few rowers coming up so it was nice to get something started.’
Having been predominantly in the lightweight single in recent times, Denise enjoyed being back in the double.
‘It was so nice to be in it again, to have someone there with me, the boat felt really good,’ she said.
‘It’s faster than I have rowed in a while and I nearly got a shock the first day because the rate was so much higher than I’ve been used to lately on my own. It was good fun.’
Next up for Denise is the second World Cup regatta in Poznan between June 16th and 18th where she will look to continue her impressive form this year – but she admits that she’s concentrating on her performance more so than the result given her busy schedule since the Europeans in the Czech Republic.
‘It’s pretty stacked at the next World Cup,’ she said.
‘New Zealand, Australia, the USA, basically anyone who will be competing at the world championships (in September) will be there.
‘It will be good to see where I am and where I’ll go from there. I wouldn’t be expecting anything out of that weekend because I haven’t had the best preparation, what with coming home after the Europeans and then heading out to London and racing in the double.
‘For me it will be about getting more racing in the scull and I’ll know what I have to do after that then for the worlds.’
Denise is still unsure whether she will be competing at the third World Cup regatta in Lucerne but has the national championships to look forward to in mid-July, with the world championships in Florida a possibility, too.
Denise was presented with her Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star May monthly award at a function in the Celtic Ross Hotel on Tuesday night, and European lightweight pair champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, both Skibbereen Rowing Club, also received May monthly awards for their heroics (see next week’s Southern Star for an interview with this duo).