Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pressure off Irish Rowers

(Image from www.imra.ie shows Gags running up the Sugar Loaf - a versatile man)
Over the past few Olympiads, much has been expected of the Irish rowing teams, specially since the lightweight fours finished a fighting fourth at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
When Sydney came around four years later, much was expected of the lightweight four of Tony O'Connor, Maxwell, Neal Byrne and Gearoid Towey. They struggled from the start, forced to take the repechage route to the semi-final and then failing to progress further.
In Athens, Gearoid Towey and Sam Lynch were favoured to pick up a medal in the lightweight pairs. They won their first heat but failed to qualify for the final, finishing a listless fourth in their semi-final. The less hyped lightweight four of Richard Archibald, Eugene Coakley, Paul Griffin and Niall O'Toole did better, finishing a creditable sixth.
Yet Irish crews have consistently performed well at World Cup and World championships level. In the year after Athens, the Irish four of Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Eugene Coakley and Tim Harnedy took silver at the World Championships.
By 2007, the lightweight crew was again struggling, with Towey in and out of the boat between extended breaks and rumours of problems within the coaching structure of the sport. When they finished 12th overall at last year's World Championships, they had missed out on an Olympic slot by just one place.
This season, with Towey back in the boat and John Holland coaching, they nailed down their place for Beijing at the final Olympic qualifying regatta in Poland. Cathal Moynihan, Gearoid Towey, Richard Archibald and Paul Griffin will now race at the Games, with Richard Coakley as reserve.
While the lightweights struggled, the heavyweight men's four flourished under the new regime headed by coach Harald Jarling. The crew of Alan Martin, Sean Casey, Cormac Folan and Sean O'Neill sensationally qualified for Beijing when they finished fourth in the B final and tenth overall at the Rowing World Championships in Munich.
It has been 20 years since an Irish heavyweight crew made the Olympics. After much permutations, the Beijing crew sees Sean Casey, Cormac Folan and Sean O'Neill retained from the qualifying crew, with Jonno Devlin taking the fourth place and Alan Martin now the travelling reserve.
Like the canoeing, the Olympic regatta will be held at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on the side of the Chaobi River. Competition begins on August 9 and continues until August 17.
Irish Crews for Olympic regatta

Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-)
Cathal Moynihan (Neptune)
Gearoid Towey (Fermoy)
Richard Archibald (Lady Victoria BC)
Paul Griffin (Muckross)

Spare man: Richard Coakley (Skibbereen)

Heavyweight Men's Four (M4-)
Cormac Folan (NUIG)
Sean Casey (Muckross)
Jonno Devlin (Oxford Brookes BC)
Sean O'Neill (St. Michaels)

Spare man: Alan Martin (NUIG)

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