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Rowing: Irish crews off to flyer in Belarus

Ireland's crews survived unscathed on the first day of racing in Belarus, where the U-23 world championships opened yesterday in the city of Brest.

Peter Hanily and Tony English were in the lightweight men's pair where Moldova were early leaders in the four-boat heat. The Irishmen eased through to tie for the lead by halfway and finished two lengths clear to qualify directly for tomorrow's semi-final.

Next up were the lightweight men's quad of Niall Kenny, Michael Maher, Mark O'Donovan and Justin Ryan. A good start gave them the lead ahead of Germany, but with the first three qualifying directly, the pressure was off and they contented themselves with second place.

This regatta is a significant step up for 19-year-old Lisa Dilleen, who finished just out of the medals at last year's world juniors. Competing in the single scull against more experienced athletes was always going to prove a challenge and the Tribes sculler gets a second chance to qualify in today's repechages.

The fourth Irish crew on the water contained Claire Lambe and Sarah Dolan in the lightweight women's double. The Canadians rocketed off at the start and the Irish double were the only crew who could begin to match their pace. Canada went through to the next round ahead of Ireland and Spain.

"Last year we sent two boats to these championships and came away with 13th and 14th places -- we already have three boats inside the top 12 here, so this is a significant step for us," said Ireland high performance director Martin McElroy.

"What we want to do here is build systemically for all our teams and not just rush for a win here and there at the expense of everything else."

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