FINTAN McCarthy’s medal collection has grown considerably since he hopped into the Irish lightweight men’s double alongside Paul O’Donovan – and he feels there’s even more to come.
The Skibbereen men showed their dominance at last weekend’s European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy, as they won their heat, semi-final and final to bring more gold back to West Cork.
In their last two international regattas together, O’Donovan and McCarthy have won World gold (2019) and now European gold. It highlighted why this boat is also one of the favourites to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo in the summer.
‘Ya, it’s a brilliant boost,’ McCarthy said after Sunday’s A final success at the Europeans.
‘We have been back full-on in the double now for the last three weeks since we had our last trial so we have had a good block of training since then. It was nice to see our work paying off (on Sunday) and hopefully a bit more to come.’
Having looked strong in their heat and semi-final wins, the Aughadown combination produced the goods again in the A final. Third after 500 metres and second at the halfway mark, the Irish boat made its move in the third quarter as they hit the front with 700 metres to go, moving ahead of Germany.
O’Donovan and McCarthy weren’t troubled from here to the end, and they (6:18.14) had nearly two seconds to spare over the Germans (6:19.94) at the finish, with Italy in third (6:21.05).
This was their first regatta back together since the 2019 World Championships, but they showed little rustiness.
‘It's good to be back international racing for sure. We were well prepared after doing a lot of racing at home so I don't think I was suffering from not racing last year,’ O’Donovan said.
Given their dominance last weekend, it’s almost certain at this stage that it will be this combination that will represent Ireland in the lightweight men’s double at the Olympics in the summer. The final crew selection will be made closer to the Games, but Paul O’Donovan and McCarthy are favourites to keep their seats, with Gary O’Donovan missing out.
‘The fact that they performed so well it would be very hard for Dominic (Casey) to open that boat up again. I don’t think he will and I think Gary is aware of that as well – he said that in his post-race interview. Gary is readjusting his goals for the single this year and to just be ready if he does get the opportunity to step up,’ 2016 Irish Olympic rower Claire Lambe told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
That’s a view shared by Skibbereen Olympic rower Timmy Harnedy who told RTÉ Sport: ‘I would say the double is locked after (last Sunday’s) performance. There was some chance if the double hadn’t performed and Gary had won, then maybe there would have been some hope that Gary would get back in, but I think these results will confirm the double.’
With the Rowing Ireland squad now in Varese on a training camp until the World Rowing Cup II in Lucerne in May, it offers O’Donovan and McCarthy the chance to benefit from a solid block of training time together.
‘They just looked so strong, phenomenally strong,’ Claire Lambe said.
‘I remember Fintan in the crew-room back in the Rio cycle and he was horsing into buckets of peanut butter trying to put on weight! He has really come on, he is looking really strong, he’s a real top world-class lightweight at this stage so he’s backing up Paul with that strength.
‘They’ll probably finesse their technique over the summer so there is more speed to come, but it was a pretty dominating performance.’
Timmy Harnedy also feels there’s more to come from his fellow Skibb men.
‘Based on that performance by the double, it was phenomenal stuff. There is a lot more to come. Paul is only getting up to speed, there is a lot to come from him yet, and I think that double will get faster,’ Harnedy added.
It’s exciting times ahead for this boat, the two Skibb men in it and their Skibbereen coach Dominic Casey.