‘Rowing is the only sport for me, I love it’

Irish rower Aoife Casey speaks to Mary White about her famous coaching father, Dominic, and of her chances at the upcoming European Championships

EVER since her father got her rowing at the age of 10, Skibbereen’s Aoife Casey has steadily improved to become one of the rising stars of Ireland’s newest-loved sport.

Rowing was catapulted into the spotlight last summer when brother’s Gary and Paul O’Donovan won silver at the Olympic Games in Rio, but it wasn’t just their success on the water that caused the nation to sit up and take notice, it was their down-to-earth demeanour. They didn’t pretend to be something they were not. They worked hard to get to where they were, and the man behind it all was their long-time coach, and Aoife Casey’s father, Dominic. 

He’s the mastermind coach, quiet and unassuming, but who has had a huge part to play in the history of Skibbereen Rowing Club – the rowing fraternity that’s the most successful club in the country since winning 13 titles at last year’s National Rowing Championships in Inniscarra. 

To Aoife, he’s just dad. The man who’s taught her how to row, and together they make the perfect team. 

“I grew up around the rowing club really with dad coaching in Skibbereen, and he brought me out onto the water when I was 10, and I’ve never looked back since,” said 17-year-old  Aoife, who’s presently in fifth year at Skibbereen Community College. 
The dynamic works perfectly for both daughter and coach, and there’s perks too says Casey.

“It’s  handy out because I never need a lift to training because he’s always going to club anyway!”

Casey’s routine has been pretty much the same for the past number of years as she’s enters her seventh season in the sport, but the hard work is beginning to pay off.

“My routine is pretty much school, eat, train, eat, study, and sleep. But I love rowing, and I like being able to push myself everyday in training while out on the water, enjoying the sun, the river and the trees.
“I haven’t really tried any other sport, but I know I’d be terrible, and I think that rowing really is the only sport for me.
“There’s no doubt that it’s tough and  it requires countless hours on the water and in the gym, but to get the chance to represent my country at the highest level is really worth the effort.”

Casey made her Irish debut at the age of 16 when she competed at the 2015 Coupe de la Jeunesse in Hungary along side her club teammate Emily Hegarty, with Casey’s parents, Eleanor and Dominic, coaching them, and taking home two silver medals. 

“Winning two silvers was a nice way to end the season,” said Casey.
“I love competing by myself, but also with someone else. Crewboats are a nice change from the monotony of single sculling, but the single is nice too because I like to do my own thing, and it’s good to challenge yourself.”

This time out, Casey will compete without Hegarty by her side, having been recently announced in the Irish squad to travel to the Junior European Championships in Krefeld, Germany, from May 20-21.

“Emily and I competed together for Skibbereen Rowing Club and Ireland for the past two years, training together every day, but Emily’s now out of the junior category so I’m competing with Margaret Cremen of Lee Rowing Club. It’s going to be great, and we’re excited to test out our new combination and speed in Germany and see how things pan out.”

The duo were selected following a number of racing assessments at Lough Rynn and in Cork to distinguish the top ranking scullers in the country, and Casey and Cremin will fly out from Dublin to benchmark themselves against the best juniors in Europe.
“International competition is really high every year, so while Margaret and I are the new kids on the block, we’ll still want to do our best and build from our experiences each race.
“We’ll fly from Dublin on the Thursday before, which is a bit of a trek as Cork would be much handier, but nevertheless as soon as we land in Germany we’ll be resting up till our races on Saturday and Sunday. We’re just really looking forward to racing abroad really and doing our best,” added Casey.
Her schedule for the domestic racing calendar is jam-packed in the coming months with the Lough Rynn Regatta taking place in May, the Cork Regatta in June, and the Irish National Championships in July, while Cremen and Casey will also have a number of Irish trials to keep them on their toes, not to mention how they finish at the Europeans in Germany.

* To see how Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen do at the Junior European Championships on May 20-21, you can follow their progress online at www.worldrowing.com.

AOIFE CASEY FACT-FILE

Age: 17.
Height: 5ft 6in.
School: Skibbereen Community School.

Family: Parents, Dominic and Eleanor; sisters Niamh and Caoimhe, and brother Dominic.

Club: Skibbereen Rowing Club.
Coach: Dominic Casey
Honours: 12th place finish at the 2016 Junior World Championships, and two silver medals at the 2015 Coupe de la Jeunesse.
Class:  Junior 18.
Favourite book: King Lear.
Most admired sportsperson: Everybody would say Gary and Paul O’Donovan at this stage with their incredible success so I may aswell too, but Mark O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll, Denise Walsh and Sanita Puspure are all athletes I hugely admire as well.

Evening Echo,

May 6, 2017

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