BY KIERAN McCARTHY
WHEN the cameras cut back to the RTÉ studio on Sunday morning after Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll had powered their way to European gold, Neville Maxwell described their performance as the best he had ever seen in a lightweight pair.
This former Olympian knows better than most what it takes to race in a pair, it was the boat he rowed in at various world championships – and talking to The Southern Star on Sunday night, Maxwell was still blown away by the Skibb pair’s A final power display earlier that day.
‘To come down a course like that at 40, 42, all the way and not lose pace or lose boat speed, it was an extremely brave thing to do – and exceptional to watch,’ said Maxwell, a rowing analyst on RTÉ.
‘I know what can happen in a race like that if you go out too hard. In the following race (the lightweight women’s single) the Swiss girl went out strong to get a lead and she blew up and finished with silver whereas the lads got faster.
‘Their last 250 metres they were faster again.
‘It was an extremely brave way to race, they went and made that race their own, they didn’t care who was in it.
‘They destroyed the field.
‘Brave is the best way to describe it. To row at that tempo and that stroke rate, it’s phenomenal. They were ahead of world record time at halfway – that says it all.
‘I thought they might blow but they got stronger.’
Mark and Shane are now the pair to beat heading into the world championships in September but looking at the bigger picture – and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 – it looks like these two will compete with the O’Donovan brothers for the two spots in the lightweight double. The lightweight pair Mark and Shane race in is not an Olympic boat.
‘Mark and Shane are the crew to beat in the pair now,’ Maxwell said.
‘I’m delighted for the lads, they’ve been knocking at the door for a while and they have been in the shadow of Gary and Paul – but they have come out now at the European championships and put their marker down.
‘They now need to train away and get ready for the world championships.
‘We all know they want to have a crack at getting into the double and that will start to happen next year. They’ll all go back into their singles from next year on; they know that, the double know that and there are other young lads out there too who are coming. It’s very healthy for Irish rowing.’
Maxwell also feels Gary and Paul O’Donovan will be happy with their silver medal in the lightweight double considering they haven’t trained together as much this year.
‘The French got the gold and there was nothing between the next few crews, and you could see Paul after, he was pumped, they were delighted and worked hard in a tough race.
‘What we have are two talented guys in the most competitive boat in the Olympic Games, and I include heavyweight in that. We have two fellas who are right up there with the best in the world. We have other fellas trying to get in there so we are in a good position.’