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Olympic plans could change local rowing traditions

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CHANGES: Off shore rowing is growing in popularity. The All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships were held in Dingle last summer and over 600 competitors took part. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

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By Sean Moriarty

Rowing Ireland held a public open meeting in Killarney last night (Thursday) to discuss the national governing body’s plans for offshore rowing, which is set to become a new arena for the sport on the international stage.

The sport’s world governing body, FISA, is behind a plan to include offshore rowing in future Olympic Games. This is in response to increasing pressure by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to replace existing codes in favour of adding new events.

Favourite to get the chop are the lightweight classes, a category where Irish rowers have excelled in the past.

Local Olympic hero Paul Griffin represented Ireland in the Athens Olympics (2004) and finished sixth alongside fellow Muckross oarsman Cathal Moynihan in the lightweight coxless four final in Beijing four years later. The lightweight four event has already been culled since 2016 and the sole lightweight boat at Olympic level is now the double sculls.

During the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, the O’Donovan brothers of Skibbereen won silver behind France in the lightweight double sculls, the first rowing medal won by Ireland in the Olympics. Tokyo 2020 may be the last time the lightweight double features as an Olympic event.

However, offshore rowing is growing in popularity, to the point that Muckross Rowing Club will soon take delivery of its first offshore quad boat.

This growth in offshore rowing is offering new opportunities for rowers countrywide, including local rowing clubs in Killarney.

A new summer league has been announced for this season with regattas taking place in Kerry, Cork, Wicklow, Wexford, Donegal and Antrim and there are over 30 clubs competing nationally offshore.

“A simple analogy would be cycling when they started to include mountain biking alongside the road races,” Muckross Rowing Club PRO Tim O’Shea told the Killarney Advertiser.

“It won’t mean the end to lightweight rowing, but it might present alternative opportunities to get local rowers to the Olympics and further grow the sport nationally. Offshore rowing is a very different skill in a different style of boat, you are fighting currents and waves where the Olympic style of rowing as we know it requires mostly calm conditions.”

Depending on the next move by the IOC, offshore rowing could be included in the Olympics as early as Paris in 2024 and Rowing Ireland is getting ready. The discipline is already confirmed for the Youth Olympic Games in Senegal in 2022.

 

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Musician Liam O’Connor back and busier than ever

By Sean Moriarty Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions. On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions.

On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig in London.

Liam and his family played at the Kerry County Council organised ‘ANSEO’ concert in North Kerry that was run to coincide with the Listowel Harvest Festival last weekend.

It was his first live show since he played at St Brendan’s College, Killarney when he shared the stage with special guest, former Irish rugby coach, Joe Schmidt. That event took place on March 11, 2020, the night before the country entered its first COVID-19 lockdown.

The ‘ANSEO’ series of concerts signalled the return of live music in Kerry and the O’Connor family shared the stage with other local musicians like Tim O’Shea and his Afro Trad Ireland group.

“People were delighted, they were mad for it, they were obviously missing it,” Liam told the Killarney Advertiser. “But they are not letting go just yet, they are still a bit hesitant.”

This Sunday Liam heads to London were he will help Dan Tim O’Sullivan steer sheep over Southwark Bridge (see page 36 for more on this story).

To cap an exceptionally busy period for the local accordion player, he has joined forces with Moya Brennan of Clannad fame. Brennan and O’Connor will release a new single – ‘Strong in Numbers’ on Friday next, October 1.

They previously performed together at a concert in the Friary in 2017.

“It was such a positive experience for all of us we just had to repeat it,” he added. “So not only have we done this recording of ‘Strong in Numbers’ but we are planning to do the Friary again later this year. After that, I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Meanwhile, the ‘ANSEO’ series visits Killarney on Sunday night.

The Fair Hill car park will host two shows featuring: The Gleneagle Concert Band; Pauline Scanlon with Mick Galvin; The Small Hours; The Rising; Cathal Flaherty and Truly Diverse.

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Coach operators plead for Government aid in budget

By Sean Moriarty   A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season. He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff […]

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By Sean Moriarty
 

A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season.

He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff is currently touring Ireland.

Representatives from the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) including Mike Buckley of Kerry Coaches, were invited to outline the detrimental impact COVID-19 has had on the coach tour industry.

Mr Buckley said he and his industry colleagues were desperate to highlight that Ireland was open for business and that the empty coach was an attempt by tour operators to prove how far they are willing to go to get this message out there.

“There is a reticence by people who travel in large numbers, people are not buying,” he told the meeting.

“There is anecdotal evidence that one coach operator is touring Ireland with two passengers, a driver and a tour guide.”

Mr Buckley said he was grateful for the previous support the industry had received but that funding stems back to the summer of 2020 and they were not included in the July 2021 round of funding.

That money was put towards existing loans on buses and coaches and has now dried up.

“It was like putting a bandage over a major bleed or haemorrhage,” he added.

The CTTC said that the coach industry contributed €215 million to the economy in 2019, the last year full figures are available for.

“Shops, cafes, hotels, attractions are hugely dependent on coach tours,” he added.

Kerry Coaches, in peak times, employ up to 114 drivers and tour guides.

“We are down to a skeleton staff,” he added.

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