home Sports Green shoots for UCC rowing in Kazan | Stephen Barry

Green shoots for UCC rowing in Kazan | Stephen Barry

    Last Thursday, the first of the new recruits to UCC’s rowing development programme were presented with the challenge that will face them for the coming year. They spent the day with sports performance support experts in strength and conditioning or “lifting metal up and down” as the college’s Rowing Development Officer, Ed Green says. Each athlete underwent a functional screening to assess their body’s strengths and weaknesses and Green will soon present them with individualised and periodised programmes which will be geared towards July’s National Championships. In effect the guidelines for the next ten months of their lives will be finalised in the coming weeks.

    That is the first of two tiers of rowers which will be welcomed to the club for the new term. The second tier will be dominated by complete novices and even though the objective for that group is learning and enjoying the sport, Green still demands a certain level of devotion: “The main thing is that you’re willing to push yourself as hard as you can and people’s perceptions of how hard they can push themselves vary a lot. That’s the really big challenge for the first year of rowing because ultimately if you’re not willing to mentally and physically bury yourself, then you’re just going to get beat by the other people who are, so you have to be willing to do that in training.”

    So one of the main challenges now is “to find people who would have no idea, because the sport is tiny, obscure and a sport which is done by toffee-nosed English people on the river Themes, and it still is,” says the man who himself grew up rowing on the Themes, “but it is accessible here to anyone who wants to give it a try.”

    Green makes no bones about his ambitions and was unsurprised to be asked to be Irish team manager at the recent Would University Rowing Championships: “It’s a next step, a natural step, in the work I’ve been doing outside of my job for UCC.”

    Ireland returned from Kazan with a silver medal, for Claire Lambe, and a further pair of A finalists, including UCC’s Niall Kenny in the single schull.

Source: Niall Kenny

    Kenny, who took up a postgrad course here last year admits that furthering his rowing career was a primary consideration in that decision: “Part of the motivation to begin an MA in Film Studies, in addition to furthering my education, was to remain in Cork to be close to the High Performance centre and coaches.” And financially his recent graduation “will have a significant impact. UCC were very helpful in covering the expenses for International competition.” Even then, Kenny had to rely on Green to secure funding for the trip to Kazan: “If he hadn’t done so, it may not have been possible for me to go.”

    Kenny, a World U23 silver medallist, had hoped to leave Russia with a medal however he hadn’t anticipated the quality of the field; the eventual winner being the silver medallist from this year’s World Seniors. Still, in the semi-final, his best race of the regatta, Kenny took the scalp of beating the eventual silver medallist into third.

    The final took place with a challenging “bouncy tail wind” which made it “difficult to empty the tank for that race because any compromise in technique could have meant getting your blades caught in a wave. For most of the races the aim was to try and row long because I have a tendency to get a bit short and ‘stabby’ at the front of the stroke.” However Kenny lost some of the rhythm of his long stroke in the third 500 metres, “possibly saving a bit too much for the last 500,” and lost significant time, finishing fifth.

    UCC has the substantial advantage of being only 20km from the National Rowing Centre at Farran Wood, where Kenny trains. Since 1973 the question of moving to these better facilities on the Iniscarra reservoir has been debated by the student-run club but with the installation of Green as director, the decision was taken to move out of the city’s marina.

    A five-year development plan to transform UCC into a centre of excellence was in place before Green’s arrival, something which he describes as “an evolving thing” but “essentially the underlying principle is that UCC is working on becoming a place that produces crews that win at the senior level and athletes that row for their country.” However, he wants to see more of these feats being achieved by rowers still wearing a UCC singlet – an obvious target being to rectify the fact that a full UCC crew has never won a senior championship for the college.

    However with all of the college’s international athletes after graduating, the probability of achieving such goals is up in the air, “We’ll just have to see what we’ve got now and where we get to… If someone comes through, I mean there are people who are physically capable of doing it, it just depends how they progress during the year.”

    However, for graduates too, the future is uncertain. Kenny may look at the Henley Royal Regatta as a main target for the year ahead, and take a well-earned break from International competition, having had a stab at Olympic qualification. Nevertheless he will also need to find a job in the absence of a college scholarship.

    Rowing is a late development sport, so Green will be eyeing with interest the talent that comes through the door with the novices in the coming weeks. Indeed he’s working with other colleges to organise more Inter-varsity beginners’ races for them.

    There’s been a heightened interest this year and next year he will “continue looking around, but the priority at the moment is to make the programme good enough.” That means securing support services such as physio, injury prevention and rehabilitation services for potential rowers after all it is a competition to have the programme which will capture the best rowers.

    And Green knows that if you build it, they will come.