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Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy fend off Swiss to win semi-final at World Rowing Championships


Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy

Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy

Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy

Four Ireland crews qualified for 'A' finals and one more was just denied on another good day for the women and men in green at the World Rowing Championships at Racice in the Czech Republic.

The two crews that won Olympic medals in Tokyo justified their ranking. If Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy feel the pressure of being roaring hot favourites in the lightweight double sculls, they shuffle it off superbly when it comes to racing.

In their semi-final, the hard-driving young guns from Switzerland, Raphael Ahumada Ireland (21) and Jan Schaeuble (22), led the Olympic champions at halfway and stayed with them right to the end. But O’Donovan and McCarthy have the eerie ability to judge just how much to do to win. They pushed on and won by a length.

In their 'A' final on Saturday, the Swiss will have another go. The Czech Republic won the other semi from Italy but in a slower time than Ireland’s.

Saturday will also feature finals for the lightweight women’s double and the women’s four, which raced to bronze in Tokyo. Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty came up against the form crew of the moment in Britain, gold medallists in two World Cups and the European Championships this year. While the Irish gave them a race and finished second, the crew stroked by Belfast woman Rebecca Shorten looks good for gold again on Saturday.

The other semi-final, won by the Netherlands from Olympic champions Australia, was slower, suggesting that Ireland has a strong medal chance.

Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen have been a joy to watch. The Ireland lightweight double took out Olympic champions Italy in their heat and in Thursday’s semi-final won a battle with Greece to take second, though both crews qualified for the final.

The fighting Irish had to give way to the superior British crew of Emily Craig and Imogen Grant, but, true to their profile, they did not let them win without a battle.

The young Ireland men’s four also gave their all in their semi-final. The new crew is formed from the successful under-23 crews of recent years, but it looked like Jack Dorney, Nathan Timoney, Ross Corrigan and John Kearney would jump right into an 'A' final first time out. They were third for much of their semi-final, only to lose out to a late drive by Switzerland.

The fourth Ireland 'A' finalists on Saturday will be the para-rowing crew of Steven McGowan and Katie O’Brien in the PR2 mixed double sculls. They took second in their repechage behind Uzbekistan.

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O’Brien is also set to compete in the four-boat final of the PR2 single on Friday.

The women’s pair of Natalie Long and Tara Hanlon took fifth in their semi-final and so go to a B Final, as does lightweight single sculler Lydia Heaphy, who finished sixth in her semi-final.

Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde get their chance to join the 'A' final parade on Friday. The Ireland double are set to compete in their semi-final at 11.16 Irish time. Katie O’Brien’s PR2 final is set for 12.18.

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