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tokyo olympics Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy off to a flier on a mixed day for Irish rowers

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Fintan McCarthy, left, and Paul O'Donovan of Ireland after finishing in 1st place in the heats of the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Fintan McCarthy, left, and Paul O'Donovan of Ireland after finishing in 1st place in the heats of the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Fintan McCarthy, left, and Paul O'Donovan of Ireland after finishing in 1st place in the heats of the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Gold medal favourites Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy oozed class today on the Sea Forest Waterway when they cruised into Tuesday‘s semi-final of the lightweight double sculls at the Tokyo Olympics.

The pair were well clear of the field winning in 6.23.74. They were five seconds ahead of the second placed Czech Republic who did book the other automatic place in the semi-final.

It was a controlled performance from the Skibberreen pair on an otherwise mixed day for the Irish rowers.

“We won the race, so it’s hard to do much better than that – you don’t want to win by 20 seconds either, because it’s very hot out there. It was still tough, all the races at this regatta will be tough. But it’s difficult to complain with that result,” said Paul O’Donovan afterwards.

Conditions were changeable but Fintan McCarthy expressed optimism that the crew is experienced enough to handle any conditions.

“I reckon we row in all sorts of conditions in training and we are used to adapting to whatever condition is thrown at us. It’s about being adaptable and doing what we do in training.”

The women’s Four of Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe and Aifric Keogh were equally impressive, qualifying for the A Final in a time of 6.28.99, just 0.23 seconds off first-placed Australia, who posted an Olympic best time of 6.28.76. The quartet will bid for glory in the final on Wednesday.

“It was great to get going,” said Aifric Keogh afterward. “We have been waiting since yesterday when the rest of the crews started. So it was a relief to go out there and give a good performance. We haven’t raced that (Australian) crew before. The last time we came up against an Australian crew was 2019.

“I think the Australians got an Olympic best today. We were obviously just points two (6:28.76 compared to Ireland’s 6.28.99). In these conditions it’s hard to read to read into times. We were the faster heat of the two but we saw yesterday with other races, the times were changing quite rapidly. But in the conditions so it’s not something we’d rely on.

“We wanted to test every element of our races. It was a case of bringing it down coming into the last bit, we wanted to practice our final sprint and all that so yeah we did go for it,” said Keogh.

After a disastrous performance in their opening heats of the double sculls on Friday when they finished last the Philip Doyle/Ronan Byrne partnership improved marginally in the repechage to secure spot in semi-final in which the first three over the line go through.

Due to a change in the rowing scheduling programme caused by forecasted bad weather on Monday, Doyle and Byrne will have three demanding races in as many days but they will be looking for a significant improvement in the semi-final in the early hours of tomorrow morning if they are to stay in the hunt for medals.

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Meanwhile the women’s Pair of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley and the lightweight women’s double of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen will compete in the repechage in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Irish time) after finishing fourth and fifth in their respective heats.

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