SKIBBEREEN Rowing Club warmed up for the national championships by winning nine races, as well as taking many other podium finishes, at the Cork City Regatta last weekend.
The event, which marked the culmination of the Grand League Regatta series, was the ideal warm-up for the nationals, as Skibbereen look to become the must successful-ever rowing club in the country.
A break in international competition saw Skibbereen’s Irish team members join their club compatriots to form a large and strong squad for the two busy days of racing at the Cork City Regatta.
On Saturday morning Rio-bound Paul and Gary O’Donovan faced each other in the men’s senior sculls where the private battle and honour of representing Ireland at this year’s World Rowing Championships, which is on in Holland two weeks after Rio, was at stake.
Following a hard-fought race, it was Paul who won the battle in a superb time of six minutes 55 seconds with Gary chasing close and the rest of the field further down the track.
Also competing strongly in the hotly-contested men’s division one single single sculls was Kealan Mannix who finished third in the Junior 18 category before going on to win the men’s Division 2 single scull event outright on Sunday.
In the crew boat events, Irish internationals rowers Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan showed their world-class status and versatility by dominating both the men’s double scull and the men’s pair divisions with clear water to spare in both events. Also racing in a double scull, brothers Fintan and Jake McCarthy performed well to finish fourth in a field which featured a large group of international-bound athletes. As part of their preparations for the U23 world championships, Fintan also joined forces with his Irish crewmates to take the men’s quadscull in style.
On the women’s side, Irish rower Denise Walsh led out of the blocks in the Division 1 single scull final before pulling clear of the field to win impressively in a time of seven minutes 51 seconds.
This was a very strong individual performance from Denise who continues to eye up a world championship berth for later this summer.
In the women’s double scull, 2015 European Coupe silver medallists Aoife Casey and Emily Hegarty produced an eye-catching performance to emphatically win in an international-level time with clear water over their nearest rivals from Bann Rowing Club.
They had earlier joined with Lydia Heaphy and Aoibhinn Keating to race very well to take second place in the women’s quad against an international selection.
The youthful Aoibhinn also continued her winning ways in the Junior 16 single scull with a confident performance in challenging conditions to top off a great weekend for the junior squad.
A successful blend of experience and youth amounted to a fiercely exciting and hard-fought win in the women’s Division 2 eight. The victorious crew of Ellen McCarthy, Shelly Dineen, Ella Cialis, Emily Dulohery, Aine McCarthy, Nadia Evans, Brianna O’Shea, Alicia O’Neill and cox Paudie Murphy provided much excitement for the spectators in their first competitive outing by holding off a strong challenge from Cork Boat Club.
Ella and Shelly then combined with club mates Denise Walsh and Orla Hayes as well as four UCC athletes in a composite crew to win the women’s Division 1 eight.
Ellen McCarthy, Emily Dulohery, Aine McCarthy, Nadia Evans and cox Paudie Murphy achieved a strong second place in the Division 2 four. This completed a great team effort from the Skibbereen girls.
Special mention must also go the ever-growing squad of young rowers who continue to gain competitive experience and proudly represented the Skibbereen club over the weekend.
All eyes now turn to the forthcoming national championships as the rowers step up their preparations with high hopes of collectively bringing Skibbereen to the top of the championship standings.
Having reached the historic 150 mark last year, the Skibbereen club currently sits level at the top of the honours list with Neptune of Dublin, and there will be a big incentive to reach pole position this year.
Simultaneously, Paul and Gary will be completing their final Olympic preparations in Barcelona and they will undoubtedly be willing on their clubmates as they seek to add to their numerous championships wins and achieve the top spot for the club.