ROWING: Bann’s rowers re-write the record books

In the Olympic year of 2012, Bann Rowing Club have just repeated their greatest ever haul of three Irish Championship Gold medals.

Both ladies and men’s crews triumphed in the Centenary year of the Irish Championship regatta, in both disciplines of sweep and scull rowing and the Bann MJ18 pair won the Club’s first recorded Senior Championship gold since 1924.

First Championship medal was an excellent Silver in the WJ18 four. This Bann crew contained no less than three current Irish Internationals, and the extremely talented Erin Barry was thrilled with her first Irish Championship medal aged just fifteen. Sarah Allen showed what solid progress she has made all year by qualifying again for the WJ18 sculls ‘A’ final and improving to an outstanding fourth place, considering that all the girls in front of her had been selected for the forthcoming World Championships in Bulgaria, and that Sarah, although just out of the medals, was a long way ahead of the other finalists.

In the final of the WJ18 pairs Bann’s Brook Edgar and Emily Hutchinson, had a very exciting tussle with the Muckross pair. Bann opened a significant lead from the half way mark, only to see the tenacious Muckross girls whittle it all back in so that with only 250m left the two boats were dead level. But the Bann girls used cool heads and upped their stroke rate significantly to power away and win gold convincingly.

As a surprise, wild card entry Bann tried Brook Edgar in the ladies novice sculls category, to defend the gold won by Sarah Allan the previous year. It proved a masterstroke by Coach Geoff. Bones, as no-one could compete with Brooke’s phenomenal power and she retained this gold medal for Bann, leading both her races from start to finish.

Geoff. was delighted by this record breaking performance from his ladies squad and paid particular credit to Brook, saying that she was super fit, had a big, Rolls –Royce engine, never tired and always raced to win. Brook thoroughly deserves her record breaking medal tally of two golds and one silver from this Championship.

Bann’s men squad had recently proven their worth with big wins at the British Championships in Nottingham but the selection of Bann’s MJ18 pairs, Joel Cassells and Christopher Black, the current Irish, British and double European Champions to represent Ireland at World level had caused ‘Country before Club’ decisions for coach Seamus Reynolds.

His MJ18 pair had to row in the pairs, but at Senior level, no other option was permitted. Although it was a huge task, the Bann Club as a whole accepted this had to be the Club’s top priority. The timetable then ruined any hopes for our strongest crews, so all this put even more pressure on the Pair, would all these Club sacrifices be worth it?

Well, they sure were, as Chris and Joel stormed through qualifications and into the men’s Senior finals, against the biggest powerhouses in Irish men’s sweep rowing. The final was a fantastic race, with the much bigger Queen’s and St. Michaels crews, being really well beaten by over five seconds by the prodigious Bann teenagers. The record books confirmed this was the first time ever, that a MJ18 crew had won the Senior pairs.

More medals came to another young Bann crew, this time Bann’s MJ18 coxed four having to race at Intermediate level, again, because of the timetabling. But Bann in fact qualified two crews for this Intermediate ‘A’ final and the lads really did us proud, being third and fourth for most of the race before a very late surge by UCD just separated them. This gave Joel, Chris Black, Chris Alcorn and Willy McCloskey very richly deserved bronze medals at full Intermediate Championship level. From the development squad Coach Seamus Reynolds gave Championship experience to Stuart Leighton and Conor Tracy, rowing with medal winners Mark Sanders and Angus Hamilton. This young crew raced very well, and showed real grit to win qualification for the MJ18 fours ‘A’ finals and meet their coach’s Championship targets.

Within days, and no time to rest, the Bann Club soon had reports of International success for their young athletes. “Big” Chris Alcorn had won a Gold for Ireland in the Irish Coxless fours, to go along with Emily Hutchinson’s bronze for Ireland at the Home Internationals in Cardiff.

In the J18 European Championships, L’Coupe, in Banyoles Spain, the Irish ladies pair of Bann’s Brook Edgar and Aoife Cooper from Muckross, coached at L’Coupe by Bann’s own Seamus Reynolds, had won Silver, Ireland’s only medal on the first day at this top European event. Sarah Allan’s Irish quadruple scull, had raced itself to an absolute standstill and had delighted their coaches in both their races.

Club Captain Keith Leighton said it was impossible to thank the coaches, the rowers and their parents for their efforts to make all this possible. Bann had been greatly honoured by selection for Olympic torch duty, had won at British and Irish Championship level, and still greater races lay just ahead.

He urged everyone to support the Olympians, big Alan in the open weight sculls, and Peter and Richard in the lightweight four, and then to remember Chris and Joel at the J18 Worlds in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. It was going to be a long summer of rowing and he hoped Bann had given everyone their cue, with three big Championship Golds!