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czechs factor BEATs carlow

Adding glamour to the Aghade wildwater canoeing races on the river Slaney, near Tullow in Co Carlow, last week was a squad of 11 Czech paddlers.

Led by former Irish resident Lukas Novosad, the Czechs had come to Ireland to flee the freezing conditions back home, where temperatures as low as -10 degrees meant paddling was out of the question.

Most of them were Canadian canoe specialists, and in men's C1 the battle between the Czechs and Irish was won by Novosad, although he hadn't been able to train on the water since before Christmas. He beat Keith McGuirk, the top local C1 paddler for the past few seasons, with Karel Rasner from the Czech republic third.

Of the juniors, Conor Healy from the Wild Water club, clocked an impressive time, despite a mishap on a weir halfway down the course.

His Wild Water clubmate Jack McCabe, and Antonin Hales from Czech Republic tied for second.

In the sprint races, Novosad repeated his win, but this time the veteran Tadhg McIntyre of Celbridge came home second ahead of McGuirk. Conor Healy was again fastest of the juniors.

A strong group of juniors from Salmon Leap Canoe Club impressed in the kayak races, with Adam Sweeney the quickest overall in the K1 sprint race.

For second place, senior paddler Cillian Duggan just made it ahead of Lorcan Feely, another junior. Tied on time for fourth place were the veteran Deaglan O'Driscoll and junior Tom Brennan.

With this group of paddlers pushing each other in both training and competition, the junior trio of Sweeney, Feely and Brennan will surely mount a strong challenge at the Junior Europeans in Serbia later this summer.

Last year Feely finished fifth in the sprint event, with the team sixth over the longer distance of the classic event. O'Driscoll and Duggan used their endurance and experience to pull away from the youngsters.

Not too far behind was Liz Shouldice, Ireland's top woman racer who continues to beat quite a few of the men.

With the river quite low, considerable skill was required to avoid exposed rocks on the way down the course, with the shallow water also making progress tough.