Team Skibb set the pace as heavyweights edged out
Ireland's rowers kicked off the opening day of the world championships in Florida with three of their four crews in competition qualifying direct for the next round.
First up were Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll who dominated their heat of the lightweight men's pairs, taking a five-second win ahead of arch-rivals Sam Scrimgeour and Joel Cassells of Great Britain. Despite being led through the first 500m by Italian U23 world champions Giuseppe di Mare and Alfonso Scalzone, the Skibbereen men quickly gathered momentum, rowing the fastest splits down the remainder of the course.
"They were well out ahead all the way home and remain very focused on what they want to achieve" said Ireland team manager Susan Dunlea. "It was good to see them putting such a good performance on day one."
Next up was Olympic silver medallist Paul O'Donovan, now left to defend his world title in the lightweight single with brother Gary still recovering from a virus.
In classic O'Donovan style Paul took his time working through the field, but established the lead after 500m and never looked back. With four scullers qualifying from a field of five there was no need to extend himself but O'Donovan plainly had a point to prove, 11 seconds clear in first place. Ireland's third qualifier was Denise Walsh in the lightweight women's single. The European silver medallist started back in third place as South Africa's Kirsten McCann led the six-boat field, but second-placed Leonie Pieper of Germany faded fast, leaving Walsh and McCann to fight it out for first. With 250m to go Walsh squeezed past McCann and secured the win by just 0.51 sec.
Ireland's fourth crew in action was the least-experienced of the team, the new heavyweight men's pair of Belfast's Patrick Boomer and NUIG's Fionnan McQuillan-Tolan.
They found the pace in their opening heat too hot to handle and, after finishing in sixth place, have a chance in tomorrow's repechages.