FINTAN McCarthy has taken a lot of positives from the recent European Rowing Championships.
He won a bronze medal in the men’s single sculls. He proved to himself he can compete at the top level as a single sculler. He gained more experience at a major international regatta. He problem solved on his own in real time. And he knows, too, that he wasn’t at full tilt, so there’s more to come.
After the most unusual of years, he feels that he is moving in the right direction.
‘I think it was important for me to get that experience at the Europeans and to prove to myself that I can hold my own,’ said McCarthy whose previous experience of competing in a single on the international stage was at the 2015 World U23s in Bulgaria.
‘The rest of the lads (in the Irish lightweight men’s training group) have so much international experience, from World Cups to World Championships and even an Olympics, whereas I was coming up from the U23 ranks, so experience is one of the areas where I lacked. That’s why it was good to compete at the Europeans and learn more about what I can do and what I need to do.’
Rewind 12 months and McCarthy partnered Paul O’Donovan to gold glory in the men’s lightweight double sculls at the World Rowing Championships. Together, they were unbeatable. But in the single at the Europeans, McCarthy was flying solo and had to think for himself.
‘From race to race, I found myself picking up on things that I could do better and then put them into practice for the next race, and I found that I improved race on race. It will stand to me because I have more experience now in the single and also I know what I can do better,’ the Skibbereen rower explained.
McCarthy will admit, given the year that it’s been, that his run-in to the Europeans wasn’t ideal, but with 500 metres to go in the A final he was in first position.
‘At the halfway point I was confident but I didn’t realise that I had spent so much energy by then,’ he said.
‘It was with 600 metres to go when I realised that this is starting to hurt. In the double last year we approached the race differently, let the others do whatever they wanted to do and we came back at them then, but after the first few rounds at the Europeans I knew that if I had any chance of winning it then I needed to be ahead at that point.
‘I did my best, I think I was ahead with 300 metres to go but by then I was hanging on. I did give a little bit of a sprint then but it wasn’t near what I would be capable of if I had the base level of fitness done and had that foundation I needed.’
Attention has now switched back to the Olympic-bound Irish lightweight double and the Games in Tokyo next summer. McCarthy feels his European adventure will help him keep his place in the boat that he, alongside Paul O’Donovan (a two-time single scull world champion regarded as the best lightweight single sculler in the world), helped qualify for the Olympics.
‘If you are going well in the single and you have two fast singles, if you can match up in the double then it’s going to be a fast double,’ he explained.
‘If you have two good scullers it will make life a bit easier in the double and help the boat move faster.’
He added: ‘I was doing a load of sprinting stuff in training during the summer so I have improved my start a lot. Hopefully I can bring that into the double next year and we might be a bit closer to the pack off the start.’
After silver at World Cup III in Rotterdam alongside Paul O’Donovan last year, followed by their World gold, now McCarthy has a European bronze medal to add to his growing collection. Onwards and upwards for the Aughadown man.