Haul of five golds con­firms Ire­land’s ris­ing stan­dards

From four boats in Coupe de la Je­unesse, Ire­land fin­ished third in the medal ta­ble

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sport - LIAM GOR­MAN

The ris­ing stan­dard of Irish row­ing was con­firmed at the week­end as Ire­land won five gold medals at the Coupe de la Je­unesse in Bel­gium.

The rightly-cel­e­brated se­nior row­ers have stepped on to podi­ums at every ma­jor event this sea­son, and this time it was the turn of the ju­niors. The Coupe, with 13 na­tions from around Europe com­pet­ing, is a hotly con­tested tour­na­ment be­low the level of the World Cham­pi­onships.

Ire­land, with just four boats, placed third in the medal ta­ble. France were sec­ond and Bri­tain topped the rank­ings – but they com­peted in all 13 classes. The broad base may not be there, but when Ire­land crews com­pete they con­tend for medals.

The ju­nior quadru­ple of Barry O’Flynn (Cork), Matt Dun­don (Clon­mel), Jack Keat­ing (Car­low) and James Quin­lan (Castle­con­nell) won gold on both days, a feat matched by the women’s pair of Gill McGirr and El­lie O’Reilly (both from Fer­moy).

Ge­or­gia O’Brien of Ken­mare took gold on Sat­ur­day and placed fourth on Sun­day. All four Ire­land crews qual­i­fied for A Fi­nals on the Sat­ur­day and Sun­day and the Ire­land men’s four were the one crew to be out of the medals.

Next up for Ire­land is the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships, which start on Wed­nes­day: Ao- ife Casey and Mar­garet Cre­men will rep­re­sent Ire­land. Reach­ing this level is also the project – in 2018 – of the next wave, in­clud­ing O’Reilly, McGirr and Keat­ing.

‘Fierce de­ter­mined’

As the Car­low man tells it, the ge­n­e­sis of the quad’s run came when he and Dun­don got to­gether months ago and set this very tar­get: two gold medals at the Coupe. The crew formed and were “fierce de­ter­mined” to win.

There was an all-out ef­fort in the fi­nal race, where Italy came fast at the end but could not catch them.

O’Reilly and McGirr had more than six sec­onds to spare over Italy in their win yes­ter­day. A com­fort­able win? “It got kinda com­fort­able at the 1k mark,” O’Reilly said. The start is not their strong­est point and the wind made it messier. But in re­cent years Ire­land crews are big be­liev­ers in strength through the mid­dle of the race, and this crew did the same and won well. McGirr is just 16.

If youth brings its ben­e­fits, so does ex­pe­ri­ence. Ge­or­gia O’Brien’s coach, Noel Casey, lived for years in Bri­tain and coached the Bri­tish women’s eight at the Los An­ge­les Olympics. He is 84 years old.

El­iza O’Reilly and Gill McGirr pre­pare to re­ceive their gold medals at the Coupe de la Je­unesse in Hazewinkel.

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