Rowing: O'Donovan turns on style to book place in semi-finals
Irish sculling hopes were raised to new heights at the World Junior Championships at Eton yesterday, when 17-year-old Paul O'Donovan won his quarter-final in style to qualify for the men's singles semi-finals.
The Skibbereen sculler turned on a tactical display of skill and power, which belied his relative inexperience on the inter-national stage, coming through the field to take victory.
Alexandros Dafnis of Greece made the early running ahead of Merab Chermashentsev of Russia, with O'Donovan trailing way back in fourth after the first 500m.
But, as the Russian faded fast, so Ireland's latest prospect clawed his way through the field to lie second at halfway.
With the finish in sight, O'Donovan packed on the pressure to scull the fastest split of the field and cross the line more than two seconds clear of the Greek.
Ireland junior coach Derek Holland was in no doubt about O'Donovan's ability.
"I do believe he's the most talented Irish sculler I've ever seen," he said afterwards.
But Holland added note of caution in advance of today's crucial semi-final.
"We're taking one race at a time -- he's very relaxed for such a young man and confident in his own ability.
"We know what speed he's got, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves."
Portora sculler Holly Nixon had a rest day yesterday after qualifying for the semi-finals of the women's event, which will take place just before O'Donovan's race.