SKIBBEREEN Rowing Club isn’t lacking motivation in its quest to officially become the most successful rowing club in the country.
If the current Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Club of the Year outperforms Neptune Rowing Club at this weekend’s national rowing championships at Inniscarra, then it will be crowned Ireland’s most successful rowing club.
Last year Skibb rowers won four national titles to bring the club’s tally of championship wins to a staggering 150 since it was founded in 1970, and it is now level with Neptune at the top of the roll of honour.
Not only is the possibility of owning the national record outright an incentive for the club’s rowers this weekend, but they will also try and achieve this historic feat for the club’s renowned coach, Dominic Casey, who will miss his first-ever national championships.
Dominic is the international coach to Skibb’s Rio-bound brothers, Gary and Paul O’Donovan, and the trio are currently in Banyoles, North Spain, for a pre-Olympics training camp.
‘I have been at every national championships since I rowed in the first one, I think 1980 or ’81. I will miss it but there is a good team filling in,’ Casey said.
Irish international rower Denise Walsh, who has represented her country and club at world championship level, admits there is a great buzz in the club in the lead-up to the nationals and there’s a huge desire to make history.
‘It could be a massive weekend for the club and everyone has been training so hard to get ready,’ said Denise (23), who has won 12 national championships already.
‘The fact that Dominic won’t be there is also a motivating factor, he’s been at every national championships for the past 33 years or more, and this is the first one he will miss so it would be nice to be able to send him some good news on Sunday.
‘Also, it’s a big year for the club with Gary and Paul rowing in the Olympics so it would be special for everyone involved if we can top the roll of honour at the end of the weekend.
‘We have the potential to do better than in recent years, we’ve a strong team taking part but Neptune have a very big men’s squad this year so we just have to wait and see.’
Skibbereen Rowing Club will have 28 athletes – 12 men and 16 women – competing in the national rowing championships and a further 24 boys and girls competing in the non-championship events (U14, U15 and U16 races), so that’s a massive 52 rowers from the club in action over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Boosting Skibbereen’s chances this weekend is the availability of the national squad rowers, Denise Walsh, Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan.
Competing on such a large scale at the national championships is a big logistical operation for the club, with two boat trailers, 26 boats, over 50 sets of oars and scull, two tents, and more, all transported to the National Rowing Centre in Inniscarra earlier this week so the Skibb athletes can train on the course before the regatta starts on Friday.
Among the athletes competing in the men’s championships for Skibbereen are Fintan McCarthy, Kenneth McCarthy, John Whooley, Mark O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll, Jake McCarthy, Naoise Kennedy, Kealan Mannix, Aodhan Burns, Alex Lockwood, Conor Smyth and Paudie Murphy (cox).
In action in the women’s championship races for Skibbereen will be Orla Hayes, Denise Walsh, Niamh Casey, Shelly Dineen, Emily Dulohery, Emily Hegarty, Aine McCarthy, Nadia Evans, Ella Cealis, Ellen McCarthy, Aoife Casey, Lydia Heaphy, Aoibhinn Keating, Alicia O’Neill, Issie Murran and Brianna O’Shea.