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Plans to roll out school rowing programme across West Cork

April 4th, 2017 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Plans to roll out school rowing programme across West Cork Image
Words of advice: Third year student at Skibbereen Community School, Poppy Colligan gets a special coaching session from Olympic silver medallist Gary O'Donovan, and Irish and Skibbereen rower Denise Walsh. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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Skibbereen's reputation as a nursery ground for producing world-class rowers has received another big boost.



SKIBBEREEN’S reputation as a nursery ground for producing world-class rowers has received another big boost.

Rowing Ireland’s schools’ rowing programme, Get Going Get Rowing, is now being rolled out in West Cork, with Skibbereen Community School already after signing up to this exciting initiative.

Last week Olympic silver medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan, the latter also a world champion, visited Skibbereen Community School to launch the programme – for both boys and girls – that introduces students to rowing and gives them access to rowing machines. Get Rowing Get Going is a Rowing Ireland initiative, mainly funded by Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport programme, which started as a pilot scheme in Leinster in 2014 and has grown every year since, with West Cork to benefit from it this year, explains Rowing Ireland’s Michelle Carpenter who has headed up this programme from the very start.

‘We started three years ago and the objective was to bring rowing machines (ergometers) into schools and to get kids rowing,’ the Limerick native said.

‘We bring the rowing machines in, and we have a fun and active programme with rowing machines so we’d start off with technique and we’d always end the session with some fun, be it a relay or a medal challenge.

‘For those that are interested, they can come down and have a taster session on the water so that they can link the whole experience.

‘We started in Dublin, we expanded to Connacht the following year and then we got funding to expand to Limerick last year, and the results have been better than what we hoped for.

‘By the end of last year we had 16,000 girls rowing with a great transition into clubs. As a national governing body we want to see people transitioning into clubs, and before Limerick had come on board, with the four clubs we’re working with in Leinster and Connacht we had 140 transition to clubs.’ 

Given its success to date, Carpenter proposed expanding the programme to Cork and Skibbereen – and it’s a move that makes so much sense.

Skibbereen Rowing Club, with 163 national championships, is the country’s most successful rowing club, while the club supplies five high performance rowers in Gary and Paul O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll, Mark O’Donovan and Denise Walsh, who all represent Ireland on the world stage.

Last year, Aoife Casey, Emily Hegarty, Fintan and Jake McCarthy, Lydia Heaphy and Aoibhinn Keating, all from Skibbereen Rowing Club, rowed for Ireland at some level, and rowing is firmly established in the West Cork town. That will only help the Get Rowing Get Going programme.

Local rowing guru Dominic Casey, a High Performance Coach with Rowing Ireland, is backing the programme.

‘When we contacted Skibbereen Community School we got a great response from their principal, Anton O’Mahony,’ explained Carpenter, with the programme becoming part of the PE curriculum in the schools it serves.

‘Denise Walsh has come on board as a community coach, which is great for her and great for us to a have a high performance woman rolling out the programme in Skibbereen. She is such a great role model for the girls. Emily Dulohery, who previously represented Ireland as a junior and rowed from Skibbereen, is also a community coach.’

The programme is already up and running in Skibbereen Community School and it’s hoped to expand it further to, possibly, Schull and Bantry.

‘Not everyone is good at hitting a ball or a sliothar, and Get Rowing Get Going gives young people access to rowing – and they’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they find,’ Carpenter added.

The programme also focuses on women in rowing and encourages more women to get involved in the various aspects of the sport.

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