CORK rower Ronan Byrne captured a bronze medal at the recent European Championships which were held in Poznan.
The 22-year-old Cork sports start produced a great performance with his rowing partner Daire Lynch which enabled the talented duo to secure a bronze medal in the men’s double sculls.
“I was very satisfied with the final performance. All went to plan. We had struggled a bit in the opening rounds, but pulled it together for the final,” revealed the ace rower.
Winning a bronze medal at the European Championship represented a great return considering the men’s pair had only teamed up in the six weeks prior to the start of the championships.
“Seeing as we only trained the double for about six weeks and had no idea how things would go, I was delighted to get a medal out of it.
"The training camp prior to the start of the championships was difficult actually. It had a lot of ups and downs.
"We really scrutinised every small detail looking for more speed and it was mentally quite challenging. Although it seems we gained just enough out of it.”
Byrne's performance in Poznan have further enhanced his growing reputation as a rower with a very bright future. His arrival as a world-class rower in the adult ranks has been signposted for some time. He admits there is a big jump from underage rowing to the adult ranks, but he is excited with regards to the future with Daire in the double sculls.
“As a young crew that had just won the European U23 title I knew it was a big jump to the senior level. However, at the same time, we were definitely the danger boat coming into the final. I thought the other crews wouldn’t know what to expect from us, so we kept attacking and eventually broke through to win the bronze.”
Sanita Puspure claimed gold in the women’s sculls which enabled her to retain the European Championship title. Ronan is full of admiration for the experienced Irish rower who lives in Ballincollig.
“Sanita performs exceptionally well under pressure. She will never crack.
"She brings confidence to the team, particularly at competitions. She is a tough woman. She can hold her own against the men on the team not a bother. It was great to see her win again.”
Overall, Team Ireland enjoyed a very successful European Championship, as they returned home with a lot of medals. Fintan McCarthy and the ladies quartet of Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe, Aileen Crowley and Aifric Keogh joined Ronan and Daire in returning home with bronze medals.
There were a plethora of outstanding Irish performances in Poznan.
“It was a rocky start for everyone I think, but as the days went by the morale stayed high. The results inevitably got better as we went through the rounds. There were some great displays and results from Poznan.
"It can be a big confidence boost when you see your own crews doing well, because then you know you're capable of doing well too.”
Byrne continued to train away at home during the first lockdown earlier this year. He admits he found it tough on occasion to motivate himself, but is indebted to his brother Alex for his encouragement.
“The middle of the lockdown was quite hard to train through. I did a good bit of work with my brother Alex. He also rows, so it was very handy having each other. Towards the end then it wasn’t too bad, because it was clear that things were improving with the pandemic.”
Despite the stop-start nature of this year, Byrne is happy with the progress he continued to make in his rowing development. He hopes these minor tweaks will lead to significant improvements in his rowing trajectory.
“I had a lot of improvements this year which would have set me up for a good Olympics, but given there are still more changes to be made I can still be faster by next year. I've learned a huge amount in the last year which will be of benefit in the coming few months.”
Byrne, who is currently studying Nutritional Science in UCC, took a short break after returning home from Poland. The rowing star is once again back training as he attempts to fulfil his rowing promise.
“I had a short break of a week after the European Championships before I started back again. Usually we would be in full swing by this part of the year, so we can’t break the routine despite the upset to the rowing calendar.
"Balancing sport and studies can be tough, but the Quercus program in UCC is very helpful in managing it. The lecturers are also accommodating.”
Byrne and Philip Doyle had qualified the double for the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Tokyo earlier this summer. The Olympics have now been rescheduled for next summer. Ronan is still focused on his Olympic dreams.
“The Olympics is definitely the big one. I will have to really focus on it one week at a time however, as it still seems quite far away. I am conscious of time going fast, so it is important I settle into a routine though.
"I will remain focused, continue to train hard and keep making improvements.”