The National Championship regatta was held at the National Rowing Centre at Farran Wood, Cork. The regatta was held over three days from Thursday to Saturday. Nine Offaly crews raced in various junior categories. Offaly Rowing Club brought home one gold, one silver and one bronze medal.
On Thursday, in good racing conditions, Alison Mooney won a gold medal in the womens junior 14 single scull. Alison was competing in her first championship event, and against older competitors. She started steadily, but soon made her way to the front and powered away to a substantial win. Based on this performance, Alison will be a force to be reckoned with in this category next year.
Claire Mangan raced in the womens junior 16 single scull, also on Thursday. Claire raced well, finishing fifth in her heat and missing out on a place in the final.
Also on Thursday, four club members raced in the mens junior 18 single scull. The competition, with 26 competitors, started with a time trial for eighteen places in the semi finals. John Neale, James Houlihan, Anthony Gannon and Mantas Pukelis all made it into the semi finals. There were only two qualification places in each semi final, and the standard was very high. James Houlihan was sixth in his semi-final, in a hard fought race. Mantas Pukelis and John Neale were drawn in the same semi-final. Mantas finished third, and John fourth, racing well, but outside the qualifying positions. Anthony Gannon was in the third semi-final. He finished third, a length away from the last qualifying place.
On Friday, in fair racing conditions, Cathal Phelan and Patrick Grogan raced in a field of 42 in the mens junior 16 single scull. The race started with a time trial, with eighteen places in three semi-finals. Both Patrick and Cathal qualified. Cathal, who was tagged as Offaly B, came home in the fastest qualifying time, with an enormous lead. Patrick also won his heat, cruising home in the 13th fastest time. Both Offaly scullers were in the first semi-final. Cathal raced a strategic race and slotted into second place to qualify for the final. Patrick was sixth in the semi-final, and didn’t progress. In the final, Cathal was a length off the pace to half way, but made a push to go in front. Buckley from Cork responded and a dogfight ensued. At the line, the margin of a few feet unfortunately went in favour of the local man, and Cathal came away with silver. The times achieved by the junior 16 compared well to the junior 18s the day before.
Also on Friday, James Houlihan and Mantas Pukelis raced in the mens junior 18 double sculls, against a large and extremely competitive field. In the heat, the crew qualified comfortably for the semi-final. The semi-final was a test of character, and the Offaly crew had to race out of their skin to scrape the last place in the final, less than a length ahead of fourth place Lee from Cork. In the final, the double found it difficult to stay with the pace but battled bravely and finished in a very good fifth place.
On Saturday, condition deteriorated steadily, with rain showers and high winds whipping up difficult waves. The Offaly mens junior 18 quadruple scull of James Houlihan, Anthony Gannon, Mantas Pukelis and Cathal Phelan faced another semi final with only two qualifying spots. In a re-run of the double sculls, Offaly fought Lee over the full course and just managed to hold them off to secure a place in the final. In the final, with conditions having deteriorated further, the race was very competitive. Castleconnell, fresh from winning the single and doubles events, took an early lead from Skibbereen, Portora (Enniskillen) and Bann (Coleraine). Offaly were fifth early on but battled through the middle of the course to challenge the two leading crews. The boys almost caught Skibbereen and were threatening to push into second place, but didn’t quite manage to move into the sliver position before the end of the race, finishing less than half a length (4 metres, 0.8 seconds) behind. The bronze medal was a very good result in probably the strongest field ever in this event.
Congratulations to former members David Neale and Peter Grogan who both won two championships for UCD, Ciaran Brady and Adam O’Donoghue who won for Carlow and Eimear Moran who was runner up for Three Castles in two events. Sheila Clavin and Rory O’Connor also raced for St. Michaels (Limerick) and Queens University, Belfast respectively.
A big thanks to Frank Durkin who, as for so many years, expertly coached all the Offaly crews.