THE new Irish lightweight double pairing of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy were denied gold in their first international regatta together by just three hundredths of a second.
Instead Paul and Fintan brought an encouraging silver medal back home to Skibbereen after they impressed at World Rowing Cup III in Rotterdam.
It was the first time that the new combination competed together internationally after they were put in the Olympic-class lightweight double following recent trials.
They won their heat on Friday and finished second in the A/B semi-final on Saturday as they advanced to Sunday’s A final. Paul and Fintan led the final for three quarters of the race and it took a fast finish from the Germans to edge out the Irish boat by three hundredths of a second after a photo finish.
The race was notable too when Paul briefly stopped rowing when he flicked Fintan’s stroke coach (a performance monitor) back into the boat after it had fallen out in the second quarter of the race.
‘That was a very good race. We had a good middle pace so we’ll see what we can do with two weeks of training before the next race,’ Paul commented afterwards, as attention will now turn to the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz that also act as an Olympic qualifying regatta. This is where the Irish lightweight double can qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Director of Rowing Ireland Neville Maxwell, who also rowed for Ireland at the Olympics, was encouraged by Paul and Fintan’s first regatta together.
‘It’s a brilliant result for their first outing together. They were very, very close to the Germans and there were only a few hundredths of a second in it,’ Maxwell said.
‘Knowing Dominic (Casey), Paul and Fintan, they would have wanted to win it. Their mentality would be, “we’re fast, let’s go out and take these guys and put a mark down”.
‘At one stage in the race, their stroke coach fell out and they had to flick it back into the boat, and there was a bit of maneuvering that they had to do. It’s a very encouraging result and performance.’
Another big positive from World Rowing Cup III last weekend was Gary O’Donovan’s brilliant bronze medal in the men’s lightweight single sculls on Saturday. Gary has lost his seat in the double alongside Paul – an early-season injury took its toll – but he’s intent on fighting hard to win that place back. His response to losing his seat was to go out and win a medal in the single, and it was a big improvement on his 16th place in the single at the recent European championships.
Earning his place in the A final after coming through the heats and semi-final, Gary led after 500 metres, settled into third by the halfway mark and stayed there until the end. He finished in 8:04.380, a comfortable third behind Australian Sean Murphy and Slovenian Rajko Hrvat.
‘I think this race went well. I still need to work on my fitness, and that showed in the last 750. But it’s a work in progress. I came here to prove to myself and to the selectors that I still deserve a chance, that I can fight for a spot in the double sculls,’ Gary said.
‘That’s a great result for Gary. He is a world champion and an Olympic silver medallist so he certainly wasn’t going to sit back and not go out and try to perform, so to get a bronze medal is really positive,’ Maxwell said.
‘Gary is the first guy to turn around and say he is not a good single sculler but it shows how talented he is to get a bronze medal. That shows you the mentality that is there.’
Jake McCarthy, the other half of the McCarthy twins, came sixth in the B final of the men’s lightweight single sculls on Saturday after finishing fourth in the A/B semi-final that morning. There were only three seconds between third and sixth in a very tight B final.
It all means that the four Skibbereen men – Paul, Fintan, Gary and Jake – are pushing hard as the battle for the two seats in the Irish men’s lightweight double continues.
To come home from Rotterdam with two medals is a strong indication of the strength of the lightweight group under coach Dominic Casey.
‘This is good for the group because you never know, someone could get injured at any point in time, or someone could get sick, so the greater the depth we have within the category, the better,’ Maxwell explained.
‘It’s unprecedented. Other countries don’t have the depth of athletes at the lightweight level like we have, so that’s really positive.
‘The French had the same situation in the Rio Olympics in 2016. They had one boat at the world championships the year before and another boat at the Olympic Games. Anything can happen.
‘Now we have four really top athletes vying for two seats in the double – but the number one priority is to qualify the boat for the Olympics at Linz next month.’
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