UCD's swell finish sees them take double
Liam Gorman (Irish Times)
18 July 2011
ROWING: THERE IS a tide which taken at the flood leads on to greatness. UCD reaped the benefits of the swell of big athletes who are cresting at the same time and won both the men’s and women’s senior eights titles at the National Rowing Championships at the National Rowing Centre in Cork on Saturday.
If the first day was beautiful and calm, the second misty and wet, then the third had lots of what rowers hate most: wind. Getting the boats aligned for the men’s senior eights final was “mayhem”, according to UCD number seven man Gearóid Duane, but once the race started his crew’s race plan – get out in front early and stay there – worked a dream. They led Queen’s University by three-quarters of a length at half way, and when NUIG/Grainne Mhaol unleashed a charge in the closing stages UCD were too far ahead.
It was UCD’s first “Big Pot” since 1983. “A long time coming, but worth it,” said Duane.
The women’s eight was a much closer race, however, with the Muckross eight encouraging the roaring crowds by pushing UCD right to the line.
The crowds who watched the final stages of the women’s single scull got drama too, albeit of a heart-rending kind. Monika Dukarska led within 10 strokes of the line only to capsize in a flash as Laura D’Urso closed – although the City of Derry woman did not look like she would have won. But win she did. “I was coming back into it. She must have panicked under pressure,” said D’Urso.
The 20-year-old Donegal woman is on scholarship in Clemson University where she does no competitive sculling. Yet, she also added the intermediate single sculls title to her tally. A former junior international, she says she may submit an entry from the US for next year’s Irish trials.
There was drama at the start of the men’s single sculls final when John Keohane, a contender for the title, was late and missed the race (he was unaware the race had been brought forward). Seán Casey was, meanwhile, bailing out his boat in the rising swell. The big Muckross man then charged down the course dealing well with a roaring tailwind and a gutsy challenge by 17-year-old Paul O’Donovan of Skibbereen, who came within 0.5 of a second of upsetting the former Olympian.
The spread of titles in rowing is such that rising talent will strike gold and a number of clubs went home very happy: St Michael’s had a clean sweep of the women’s junior sweep events; Castleconnell did the same trick with the men’s junior sculling events; Skibbereen took away six more titles and Bann and Queen’s saw their emerging talent make its mark.
But UCD opened well on the first day, were part of a controversial disqualification on the second, and won the biggest prize for both men and women at the end. Their championships. Definitely.