Friday 30 September 2016

Double joy for Ireland as male and female rowing teams qualify for Olympic finals

Sean McGoldrick in Rio

Published 11/08/2016 | 13:13

Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe have qualified for the Olympic final as have Paul and Gary O'Donovan
Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe have qualified for the Olympic final as have Paul and Gary O'Donovan
Claire Lamb and Sinead Jennings are through to the Olympic Final

Irish rowing is celebrating a historic breakthrough after two crews qualified for Olympic finals at the Lagoa Stadium in Copacabana today.

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The first ever Irish female crew to reach an Olympic A final will contest tomorrow's light double sculls decider after the Irish pair of Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe eased into the six crew decider.

The Netherlands controlled the race winning in 7:13.93 with Canada second (7:16.35) but the Irish girls comfortably held third place in 7:18.24 ahead of Denmark (7:20.29).

Significantly, in the context of tomorrow's final, the Irish crew's time was faster than the New Zealand and Chinese boats that finished second and third in the other semi-final behind the South African pair who are favourites for the gold medal.

11 August 2016; Sinead Lynch and Claire Lamb of Ireland following the Women's Lightweight Double Sculls semi-finals at Lagoa Stadium, Copacabana, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
11 August 2016; Sinead Lynch and Claire Lamb of Ireland following the Women's Lightweight Double Sculls semi-finals at Lagoa Stadium, Copacabana, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Less than 15 minutes later there was more joy for Ireland when the O'Donovan brothers from Skibbereen in County Cork also finished third in their semi-final to reach the A final in the men's lightweight double sculls.

Their semi-final was won by France (6:34.43) ahead of the United States (6.35.19) but Ireland were very comfortable in third place in 6.35.70 with the Great Britain boat, which included Coleraine born oarsman Richard Chambers, a distant fourth in 6:38.76.

Gary O'Donovan and Paul O'Donovan of Ireland
Gary O'Donovan and Paul O'Donovan of Ireland

Previously, two Irish lightweight men's fours crew qualified for Olympic finals. At the Atlanta Games in 1996 the crew – which included Sinead Jennings' husband Sam Lynch – finished fourth while in Athens in 2004 a different crew finished sixth. Single sculler Sean Drea was fourth in the Olympic final in Montreal in 1976.

Ireland has never won an Olympic medal in rowing but everything could change in the next 24 hours.

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