Rowing Ireland is the national governing body for the sport of rowing across the island of Ireland, north and south. The organisation was founded in Dublin as the Irish Amateur Rowing Union on February 3rd, 1899.
The organisation currently has almost 4,000 registered racing members in more than 70 clubs and universities around the country, with the overall rowing community estimated to be at two or three times this number.
The National Governing Body’s funding of €730,000 per annum derives primarily from Sport Ireland and Sport NI grants with core funding related to numbers participating and high performance funding based on potential for Olympic and World Championship placement.
Most of the work of Rowing Ireland is done by volunteers in the clubs and on RI committees and working groups. There is a small staff of eight personnel based in the National Rowing Centre in Farran Wood, near Coachford, Co. Cork, where the CEO, High Performance Director and two high performance coaches are based. There are also regional development coaches in Limerick, Galway, Dublin and Belfast.
Rowing Ireland’s role is to lead and encourage interest and participation in both competitive and recreational river, coastal and offshore rowing for people of all ages and abilities, and to promote excellence in competitive high performance river rowing to elite international, World Championship and Olympic medal winning level.
Ireland has enjoyed considerable success at World Rowing Championships and more recently at Olympic level. Carlow rower, Sean Drea, was the first Irish rower to win a World Championship medal, securing silver in the men’s single sculls in 1975.
The country’s first World Championship gold medal was won by Niall O’Toole of Commercial Rowing Club in 1991 while Neptune rowers, Neville Maxwell and Tony O’Connor, won bronze in the men’s lightweight pairs in 1994, silver in 1996 and 1997 and bronze in 1999.
Sam Lynch won silver in the men’s lightweight sculls and Sinead Jennings took bronze in the women’s lightweight sculls in 2000, building toward 2001 which became the first bumper year for Rowing Ireland with Sam Lynch, Sinead Jennings,Tony O’Connor and Gearoid Towey (lightweight men’s coxless pair) all winning gold in the World Rowing Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Sam Lynch went on to retain his World Championship title in 2002 and he and Sinead Jennings married a few years later. Both rowers also trained and qualified as doctors however Sinead went on to win silver in the lightweight single sculls in 2008 and returned to rowing again in 2015 to train and qualify for the Rio Olympics just months after the birth of her third child.
In 2016, Irish rowing was thrust into the global spotlight when brothers Paul and Gary O’Donovan of Skibbereen Rowing Club won silver at the Rio Olympics in the lightweight men’s double sculls, shortly after Claire Lambe and Sinead Jennings placed sixth in the lightweight women’s double sculls, becoming the first Irish women’s rowing crew to qualify for an Olympic A final.
Just a week later, Paul O’Donovan went on to win gold at the 2016 World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam – the only rower to go from medaling in Rio to medaling in Rotterdam. He retained his title the following year when club mates Mark O’Donovan (no relation) and Shane O’Driscoll also powered across the line in the lightweight men’s pair at a phenomenal rate of more than 40 strokes per minute, to win gold in the 2017 World Championship in Sarasota, Florida.
These outstanding podium successes combined with our athletes’ engaging interviews, captivating personalities, hard work and sheer dedication have boosted Rowing Ireland’s national and international profile and the sport is now experiencing substantial growth across Ireland through clubs, universities and schools. Irish rowing is expected to retain huge national and international public interest as our athletes row towards selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.