Wednesday 7 September 2022

The Irish National Rowing Championships 2022 - By James Arthur

It was a hot and sunny day on the 8 July. My crew and I had been training hard for Neptune Rowing Club and it was coming to the end of the season. I had my bags packed in the boot of our car and a sick feeling in my stomach. It was at around 1pm when me, my mam and one of my crew mates, Tommy left town for Cork. For the whole journey down there we talked about the race that we were going to be in the next day. We got to ‘The Oriel Hotel’ in Ballincollig in only 3 hours despite taking a quick break along the way. We arrived at the hotel earlier than the rest of our crew so we dumped our bags in our rooms and went to the swimming pool to relax our nerves. When everyone else arrived at the hotel we sat down for dinner but some of us didn’t have an appetite. That night we all went to bed at 11pm to get a nice long sleep before the big day but I struggled to settle and ended up falling asleep a lot later. The next morning we went to breakfast at 8am and our coach told us to eat lots so we ordered foods like porridge and fruit but I couldn’t eat. After that we all went down to ‘The National Rowing Centre’, which is located on the Taiscumar Reservoir at Farran Wood near Ovens. When we got down to the water, there were boats, trailers and people everywhere and everyone you looked at was busy doing something. We found our trailer and coach and got prepared for the race. Thirty minutes before the race started we launched our boat and rowed out onto the reservoir to warm up. At this point my head was filled with so many thoughts. We were in a quad, a boat with 4 rowers and a coxswain. I was in bow, which is at the back of the boat. Lochlann was seated in front of me in the two position, then came Hugh in the three position, and then Tommy in Stroke, with MacDara coxing.  It was a 1km race, a lot shorter than most of our races and there were 6 other boats racing against us. When we reached the start line the sun was beaming down on us and then everyone went quiet as we all got mentally prepared. When the umpire screamed “attention… go!” all of a sudden those nervous feelings disappeared. We started off behind the other boats which gave us a lot more work to do. After the first 250m we gained on the other boats and by 400m it turned into a race between us and one other crew, St Michael’s from Limerick. At the 600m mark one of two commentators lost hope and said “I think this will be a win for St Michael’s”, which only made us push harder and by the 900m mark we were neck and neck with the other boat. At this point I looked over at the boy rowing parallel to me and we locked eyes, then I shouted to my crew mates “One last big push!”. At this point our fore arms were aching from holding the oars too tight, our hands were bleeding from blisters and cuts and our legs were sore and cramped. Ten strokes later when both boats hit the finish line at the same time every rower felt relieved that it was over but neither crew knew who had won. As we gently rowed back into the slip we saw other club rowers and supporters run down towards us telling us we won and we were all in complete shock. After we took the boat and oars back to the trailer all the crew ran down to the reservoir and jumped in the water in our kit, and swam with the kids from other clubs. After that we went to the podium where we were presented with our medals and at around 7pm we left to go home for Dublin. We had gone into the season inexperienced and not expecting much but thanks to our coach Dermot, and the determination of the boys we had come out of it as a successful crew and really good friends.