FINTAN McCarthy has embraced the certainty that keeping his seat in the Irish lightweight men’s double has brought.
During the recent trialling process for the Olympic-bound boat, he dealt in what-ifs. But now he has the certainty he wants. He’s in the boat alongside Paul O’Donovan, the partnership that raced to gold at the 2019 World Rowing Championships. They are competing at this weekend’s European Rowing Championships in Varese - and got off to a great start winning their heat on Friday morning. They have a long training camp in Italy afterwards. Then they have World Cup II in Lucerne in mid May.
‘In the last few months you’re thinking, if we make it, if I am in the boat, so it’s nice to know that this is what will be happening for the next few months. It means we can get a plan together,’ McCarthy explains.
Already, the signs are encouraging.
‘Training has been going well the last few weeks. Now that we are set in the boat we are making some good improvements,’ McCarthy notes, without giving away too much.
But again, it’s that certainty that can now act as a building block to a potentially special summer, with the Olympics Games in Tokyo just over 100 days away.
‘It’s even nice to be back in the double,’ the Skibb man says.
‘Before, we’d be going to training and you didn’t know if you’d be in the single or in a double, but now it’s in our boat and we are making this boat better every day. There is a clear objective there and that’s helping training.
‘We have had some good training sessions with the heavyweight double and we’ve been pleased with how they are going.
‘There is huge potential for us to do some good things in the summer but to do that we need to tick a lot of small boxes and get a lot of things right.’
McCarthy (24) is taking nothing for granted, though. The final crew selection for the Olympics won’t be made until the summer, but he’s in pole position now and in control of his own destiny. With Gary O’Donovan waiting in the wings, the pressure is on to produce the goods in the Irish double.
‘To avoid any further trials down the line it would be good to solidify the boat with some good performances over the next few regattas so that there won’t be any questions, whereas if the results aren’t great it could lead to a different conversation. We want to put in good performances and solidify our positions,’ explains McCarthy, days out from the European Rowing Championships in Italy.
This will be the first regatta since the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Austria that McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan have raced together in the Irish lightweight men’s double. There, they blew the opposition away to win World gold in just their second regatta together in the boat. Their performance in the final was spectacular as they surged from sixth place after 500 metres to destroy the field. So, the potential for fireworks in the weeks and months is huge.
O’Donovan is the four-time world champion rated, at just 26 years old, as the greatest Irish rower ever, while McCarthy brings an enthusiasm and new dimension to the boat that had been owned by the O’Donovan brothers since 2015. It takes a special rower to break up the Olympic medal winning partnership of Gary and Paul, but step forward Fintan.
When the O’Donovan brothers brought Ireland to a standstill on Friday, August 12th, 2016 as they won the country’s first-ever Olympic rowing medals, Fintan, then 19 years old, watched the final in The Paragon Bar in Skibbereen town. Now, he’s in that same boat that will travel to Tokyo as a real medal prospect. But there are a lot of strokes to pull before then, starting at the Europeans.
‘This will be a regatta to see where we are at this stage of our preparation, and we can build from there then,’ McCarthy explains.
‘We know ourselves how fast we are going compared to how fast we have gone before. It will be good to get a gauge of how fast everyone else is compared to that. We don’t know what other countries are up to because we haven’t raced any of them since 2019.
‘We will see then what we can do over the next few months to get even faster.’
McCarthy and the Rowing Ireland team left these shores on Monday ahead of the Europeans and they won’t be home again until after World Cup II in Lucerne in mid May because they’re staying in Italy for a training camp.
‘We will have the regatta to see where we are at, then a good block of training before the next regatta to make some improvements and that will be our last test before the Olympics,’ McCarthy explains.
‘At this stage you would want to be getting the most out of every day.’
McCarthy knows too that there is a just-in-case trial scheduled for after World Cup II, but if McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan produce the goods there will be no need. The journey starts in Varese this weekend.