FOR the third successive year Bann Rowing Club have won the Northern Ireland J16 ‘eights’ rowing Championship, retaining the Craig Cup, with a nail biting victory in the final stages over a huge Methody crew.
The preliminary time trial element of the Craig Cup showed that the successful finalists, Bann and Methody, would be very well matched. In wet, blustery conditions the side by side final started well, with Bann establishing a lead of about a canvas, and by the Mountsandal bridge both crews were having a real nip and tuck race.
Five of the powerful Methody crew had raced in this same event the previous year and they were determined to avenge that previous defeat. The two boat speeds seemed identical, their stroke rates were virtually the same, and both boats stayed locked together for the next 700m.
Neither crew was going to fade away, and the question now was, could either crew actually increase their boat speed, or else the whole race looked destined for an extraordinary dead level finish.
Mere inches now separated the two boats, and with the finishing line rapidly approaching, Jack Henry, the Bann Cox, gave his stoke man Conor Tracy the instruction ‘Bann Wall’! For over 160 years this same war cry has inspired countless athletes from Bann for a final sacrifice.
And once more the Bann magic worked and this young crew bravely responded. Keeping their length and rhythm, they now unleashed a tremendous surge to break the deadlock and then powered their boat, ‘The Sizzler’, away from Methody, over the last 300 metres, to a really excellent win by half a length.
Every single training session had now paid off, and indeed it had taken every single training session to win the Championship. Both crews, very sportingly, shook hands, and received richly deserved applause from the large group of hardy spectators.
Mr. Eric Chambers, father of the famous World Class International rowing brothers Peter and Richard, congratulated both crews on a truly outstanding, hard fought race before presenting the Craig Cup to the victorious Bann men. ‘Crafty’ Bobbie Platt MBE, Club President and ‘coach to the coaches’ congratulated the whole club for hosting such an excellent event and said that this regatta illustrated perfectly why the Craig Cup had been so important to Irish rowing for the past 52 years.
Club Captain Keith Leighton thanked all the supporters who had braved the atrocious weather, and paid particular thanks to Cookstown for sponsoring this event. He said that this was only the third time in the history of the Craig Cup that it had been won by the same club for three consecutive years and that the opportunity now existed for Bann to re-write the history books in the Olympic year of 2012.
He sent best wishes from the entire club to the three Bann men, Alan Campbell, Peter and Richard Chambers, competing in this weekend’s World Cup rowing regatta in Munich
More good news to emerge from the club this week was the news that Bann Coach Seamus Reynolds and both Joel Cassells and Christopher Black had been selected to represent Ireland at International European Level, L’Coupe de la Jeunesse, in Ottenshein, Austria.
Seamus said that he was delighted for the boys, and they would be rowing together in the Irish J18 pair. He added that both boys would still be young enough to compete again in this J18 age category in 2012 and that Bann had many years of exciting times ahead.