Irish rowers make great strides by reaching World finals
Ireland's rowers returned from the World Junior Rowing Championships in Tokyo with much to celebrate after both their men's coxed four and women's double scull reached the finals at the Olympic test event.
Never before has Ireland's entire entry qualified in this way and, though neither crew reached the podium, it marks a significant milestone in the growth of Irish rowing.
Yesterday's finals kicked off with the men's coxed four, in which James O'Donovan of Castleconnell, Matthew Gallagher of St Josephs, Shandon's Jack Dorney and John Kearney of Cork, and their cox, Leah O'Regan, lined up alongside China, who beat them to the line by just 0.16 of a second in Thursday's heat.
Ireland went off at 49 strokes a minute, and pulled through to first place after 500m, closely followed by China and South Africa, who took over the leading positions at halfway.
That all changed in the final quarter where Germany launched a sustained attack that moved them right through the pack into the gold medal position, while South Africa eclipsed China for silver and Ireland were edged into fourth.
In the women's doubles Rhiannon O'Donoghue and Molly Curry, who pulled off the race of a lifetime to qualify from Saturday's semi-final despite just five weeks together, slipped to fifth while Holland took gold ahead of China and Lithuania.
"We definitely didn't think we'd make the final - we learned a lot from the repechage, and we surprised ourselves that we had that bit extra to give in the semi-final," said Curry afterwards.
Rowing Ireland coach John Armstrong said: "We achieved pretty much what we hoped to achieve - I don't think the guys and girls left anything out there, so I'm pretty proud. If somebody said ten days ago that we'd be fifth in the world I'd have ripped their arm off, so I'm pretty happy."