IT WILL be a year of transiton for Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll as they move from the men’s lightweigh pair to heavyweight, but evolution is nothing new for the world champion duo.
Earlier this week, they were present at the National Rowing Centre in Inniscarra for the announcement of the Ireland teams for the upcoming World Cup Regatta in Belgrade, their first event at the heavier grade.
Mark O’Donovan knows it will be a challenge but he feels that they have already put a strong portfolio together.
‘It’s massively different, really,’ he says, ‘but myself and Shane have been in this position many times before.
‘We’re used to shovelling the s***, really, we’ve always been coming from the back and making our way through. We’re always persevering – in 2015, we came seventh at the world championships and the following year ended up coming fourth in Europeans and the worlds.
‘We were a little bit let-down but at the same time we were happy and then we went on to win both of those events last year.
‘Something similar is probably going to happen over the next few years.’
The increase in weight hasn’t provided a licence to gorge and pizza and beer though, as Shane O’Driscoll outlines.
‘Lightweight is 70kg,’ he says, ‘you have to weigh in two hours before your race and you have to be 70 to race.
‘Heavyweight is anything above that – you can race at 70 if you want but you’d be giving away a lot.
‘Since October, we’ve been working on that a lot, taking in more calories. We still eat quite healthily but we take in as many calories as we can after the session because we’re working hard.
‘Training is quite similar to last year, maybe just a bit more work in the gym, trying to bulk up and put on a bit more muscle. We still have the same boat, we still have the same oar, it’s going to be quite similar to last year.’
Not the same opponents though, with quite a gap to bridge.
‘I would think that ten seconds, or even more, is the gap that we’re aiming to close over the next couple of years,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘The winning heavyweight crews would even be a little bit more, but our goal at the moment is to qualify for the Olympics by 2019 and I think you’d have to close up a ten-second gap to do that.’
It’s the kind of level of improvement they showed from 2015-17 and they will benefit from the continued expertise of coach Dominic Casey rather than national heavyweight coach, David McGowan.
‘There’s an exception in place, with a strong Skibbereen bond!’ O’Donovan laughs.
‘Antonio [Maurogiovanni, High Performance Director] has been very kind with that, we’ve been working with Dominic so long and it has been so successful, you can’t change a winning combination, really.
‘Since Dominic took us on, he’s done really well with us because we were with a previous coach beforehand.
‘Dominic put us on a programme and it has been quite successful, we ended up running with that over the last couple of years and it really took off. We believed in it and he believed in us, so it worked out quite well.’
The hope is that that will continue to be the case, even if the expectations of victory, this year at least, have been lowered. ‘We go out there in every race to try our level best,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘We practice what we’ve been doing in training and if you do your best, what more can you do?
‘We’re going into the first World Cup now but we’re being patient and everyone around us is being patient. It’s all positive, we’ll see where we come and work from that then.’