Ireland is having a very good second day at the European Championships here in the sunshine of Bled in Slovenia. Five boats have already qualified for A Finals, with the lightweight men’s double semi-final still to come.
Ireland won two of their eight repechages, through Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde in the women’s double and Siobhán McCrohan in the lightweight single. Yet, sharing the limelight was the fourth place which qualified Katie O’Brien and Steven McGowan in the PR2 Mixed Double (above).
They dug out a superb, fighting finish in their repechage to take that final qualification spot. This is a big step in the development of a crew targeting the Paralympics next year. The top six at the World Championships in September will be guaranteed a place at the Paralympics.
McGowan and O’Brien were exactly level with Italy at the 1500-metre mark, but they produced the fastest final 500 metres of all the crews to nail that crucial fourth place behind France, the Ukraine (the world champions) and Poland.
Puspure and Hyde had settled for second in the heats behind the outstanding Dutch crew of Roos de Jong and Laila Youssifou, but there was none of that today (see pic below as they cool down). They led their repechage right through, with Britain tracking them and hoping to nail one of the two A Final places, only to see France finish better and take second.
McCrohan was similarly emphatic in her win in the lightweight double. She returned to major international action after a seven-year lay-off and looked the part. Switzerland’s Eline Rol took the second qualifying spot.
The two other Ireland qualifiers came through by finishing second and third in their repechages. The lightweight double of Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey looked in real danger of not making the top two necessary to progress, but a fine finish saw them pip Italy in a race won by Greece. Unusually off-form in the heat, it was encouraging to see this boat, which medalled at the World Championships in 2022, up its form as it hopes to make a podium again come Saturday’s final.
The women’s four had a more comfortable progression to their final, which is also on Saturday (11.22 Irish time). Top four would have been enough, but they took third. This crew has three of the four which took bronze at the Olympic Games, but it is very much reconfigured, as Eimear Lambe has taken over in the stroke seat from Emily Hegarty, who is injured. Tara Hanlon has come in, with Fiona Murtagh and Aifric Keogh retaining their places.
The women’s pair of Natalie Long and Imogen Magner, a rower for Leander who was making her debut for Ireland, missed out by finishing third. As a completely new crew, this was a competitive showing. They jousted with Britain for the second spot behind Croatia, but could not oust them.
The Ireland men’s four also targeted a top-two spot, and it looked a possibility for about two-thirds of the race. The Netherlands and Switzerland then took off, and Ireland found Ukraine charging after – and taking – their third placing.
Brian Colsh was up against it in the repechage of the men’s single. The man who would go on to win, Croatia’s Damir Martin, is three times an Olympic medallist; in fact he came within thousandths of a second of gold in the single in 2016. He qualified for another final with a win in this repechage. The battle for second saw the home country, Slovenia, pipped by Hungary. Colsh, who is just 20, got stuck in fourth, but was just a few lengths off the top three at the finish.