Three Ireland crews qualified their boats for the Paris Olympics today at the World Championships in Belgrade. Added to the great achievement of the Paralympic double in booking a place in Paris, this event is already shaping up to be a very good one for Ireland.
The men’s and women’s pairs both had reasons to hope, and big challenges. Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh are Olympic medallists from 2021, but still count as a new crew. Romania were the form crew in their semi-final, and also have the favoured lane one in sometimes difficult conditions. Keogh and Murtagh forced their way into second, just ahead of Chile, at the 1,000 metres mark. They held that to the end; the top 11 qualified and they were now in the top six of the A Final. “It was tricky out there with the wind, so we’re quite happy we made it through,” Murtagh said.
Ross Corrigan and Nathan Timoney (pictured) had a similar pattern – and the same outcome. Romania again took the win, and while Ireland established themselves in second and clung onto it. Timoney (just a day over 23), spoke of their legs burning as South Africa (who made it) and Spain, who did not, pushed hard. “Going across that finish line and qualifying for the Olympics is surreal,” he added. 
The lightweight double of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy will have their big test in the final. They won the first semi-final with customary authority; Switzerland won the second. The Irish were pleased at qualifying for the Olympics first time out. But O’Donovan was conscious that the lightweight women’s double and the women’s four had missed out today.
“It’s nice for sure, to book the ticket now at this stage makes next year a bit easier and we can just focus on peaking at the right time. Luckily for some of the guys that didn’t qualify today they’ve another chance as well, that’ll make the B-finals more exciting.”
Both crews have to finish in the top seven to nail down a Paris slot – so it is win the B final or kick it all forward to next year’s Olympic qualification regatta. Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey had a good middle to their race, but could not force their way past the United States, who defended third.
The four held a place in the top three at 500 metres and 1,000 metres, but were pushed into fifth by the end.
Siobhán McCrohan won her lightweight single semi-final by coming from behind, but Jake McCarthy was well off the pace in the men’s lightweight single C/D semi-final.