Men's Heavyweight Four qualify for 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
Ireland’s Sean O’Neill who occupies the bow seat tried to put into words what Olympic qualification means to this crew:
“It’s magic. I’ve never been so happy coming fourth! It used to be we’d be disappointed to come fourth, but it was just qualifying. So it’s just a huge relief – a weight off. You feel lighter after all the pressure.”
Stroke man Alan Martin said the crew always knew what a challenge it was going to be to qualify; “It was pretty nerve-wracking all right. With only five crews going through, every one of them was showing form all week. It was never going to be easy to beat them. It was a case of us staying focused. We did that….the main thing was to stay focused on our own boat and to see what we can do to qualify – and we did that. We’re absolutely over the moon.”
The Czech four set a blistering pace and led the field for the duration of the 2000m test. The German crew, in front of a ten thousand strong home crowd in the grandstand were second to the 500metre mark with the Americans third and Ireland less than a boat length back in sixth behind Belarus and Australia.
The Irish four have been working hard on their third 500metres and that work paid off today with the quartet recording the fastest third quarter of all six crews, and without doubt that was where the qualification was won for the Irish.
They made enough ground in that part to hold of the challenge of Belarus and the Australians in the final quarter. The Irish four finished fourth behind the Czechs, Americans, and home crew Germany, and ahead of Belarus who claimed the final qualification spot to leave the Australians in the place no crew wanted to be.
“This was number one priority – get to Beijing. Now we just focus on making the Olympic final. Anything can happen there. This has been our project over three years. Harald; our coach had faith in us from the start. Other people wouldn’t have given us a chance. But he saw something there and he’s been moulding us into this boat to give us every possibility. It’s just a relief to have it finally done”, responded Cormac Folan when asked what the feeling was to see their dream become reality.
The crew will take a well deserved break now before starting back in full-time training in the beginning of October.
“It’ll make the year ahead and especially the winter training a bit more enjoyable now we have Beijing to look forward to and we don’t have to go to the Olympic qualifier next June. Someone has just told us it’s 341 days from today; Beijing, and it’s such a relief that we can focus solely on it and concentrate on developing as a crew and building on what we’ve done here”, remarked Killarney’s Sean Casey.