CORK rowing ace Ronan Byrne enjoyed a very productive 2019 season.
The UCC rower partnered Philip Doyle to a silver medal in the double sculls at the World Rowing Championships. Ronan concluded his season by capturing the gold medal in the single sculls at the European U23 Championships.
The ambitious Cork rower is delighted with the progress he made this year: “Winning the medal was a big step in the Olympic dream as it showed me that all the hard training during the year paid off and that Irish heavyweight rowing is climbing the international ladder. It is also great to see the inspirational effect it had on younger rowers,” he declared.
Ronan was thrilled with the performance both he and his rowing partner Philip produced at the WorldChampionships which were held in September. The duo produced a great display which enabled them to claim a silver medal. They also qualified the double sculls for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I knew that Philip and I could take a medal since we won silver in Rotterdam at the World Cup 3 event, although the coaches pressed us hard to make sure complacency didn’t creep in to our performance. The heavyweight double will race at the Olympics. Philip and I will be the crew unless there is a serious injury or illness in which case a reserve will deputise.”
Following his heroics in Austria, Ronan then travelled to Greece where he won gold at the European U23 Championships. Ronan produced an assured display which enabled him to win the race by over a length from the much vaunted Russian rower Alexander Vyazovkin.
He was delighted with the quality of his performance in the single sculls: “I wouldn’t say winning the single at the European U23’s is my greatest achievement, but it is definitely up there with my top races. The regatta went exactly as I planned. The single is a much more personal and aggressive race I find. Although I believe I can push myself harder in the double. At the moment I enjoy racing the double more as this is the boat which qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
Ronan and his national team colleagues are in the midst of a gruelling training regime. They are undergoing trials and putting in huge hours on gym programmes in preparation for next year’s Olympics. Ronan is happy with his training programme and is eagerly looking forward to competing at the Olympic Games.
“We have been in a full training programme for the last eight weeks and we will keep going with this right up to Tokyo. Rowers all over the world are in full swing getting ready for the Olympics and so are we. Making it to the Olympics has been a personal goal for the last few years. It is a huge achievement. The big goal however is to win an Olympic medal for Ireland.
“I’ve won the first two national water trials which were held in October and November respectively. The next water trial will be over 2,000 metres in February. All our immediate focus is on training hard and getting ready for the next water trial.”
Rowing in Ireland is thriving. Numbers participating in the sport throughout the country are growing on an annual basis. The success of the O’Donovan brothers, Paul and Gary, at the last Olympic Games in Rio has acted as a catalyst for the huge upturn in popularity of rowing.
Ronan admits their silver medal success in Rio has helped inspire him in his quest for success.
“The O’Donovan’s success in Rio came at the same time I went to my first World Championships. Seeing how well they did at such a young age showed me that age doesn’t necessarily offer an advantage in rowing.”
Cork rowers will be very much to the fore when the Irish team for the Olympics will be confirmed next year. The O’Donovan brothers, the McCarthy twins, Fintan and Jake, Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan, all members of Skibbereen RC will all be vying for places on the various boats. Ronan is very good friends with all the other Cork rowers: “We all get along really well, so when we go away for regattas and to the World Championships it is great fun. Rowing is still a relatively small sport in Ireland, so everyone knows each other. The competition for places is very intense and brings out the best in everyone.”
Ronan started rowing with Shandon Boat Club at the age of 11 and has great memories of his time competing with Shandon BC.
“I started out in Shandon Boat Club on the Marina. I currently row with UCC Rowing Club, but I still train out of Shandon regularly. I always see the lads I grew up with there.”
The 21-year-old, who went to secondary school in Douglas Community School, is delighted to see his former alma mater have started a rowing team.
“When I was in DCS there was only a handful of rowers. It is fantastic to see the numbers participating have increased and the teachers are investing time in developing rowing. They are competing in the indoor competitions and they have enjoyed a very successful start.”