Bann Girls strike gold at Champs.

Bann Girls strike gold at Champs.

Bann Girls strike gold at Champs.

Bann’s brilliant ladies struck a double gold, three silvers and a bronze and just about broke every Club record at the 2015 Irish Rowing Championship down in Inniscarra National Rowing Centre in Cork last weekend. The boys all managed to win Championship medals so that all eighteen young warriors returned from Cork having graced the medal presentation podium.

To the delight of the huge group of travelling supporters, families and friends the successes just kept rolling in from the first morning until the last evening at this magnificent three day Championship event. Day one and Bann kicked off with Dylan Mitchell winning both his quarter and semi-finals before defeating all except two of his 28 strong opponents. A great start and the first men’s sculling medal for Bann since a young, future Olympian, Peter Chambers won silver back in 2008.

The girl’s double scull of Fiona Chestnutt & Hannah Scott then shocked everyone by absolutely flying down the 2,000m course to almost snatch gold before just being piped into a sterling silver by an experienced Skibbereen International crew.  Already that was two events and two medals for Bann and now the next race was the ladies coxless fours. Bann had a great crew for this ultimate test, all Irish Internationals and all very hungry for success. Erin Barry, Katie, Shirlow, Rebecca Meenagh and Hannah Scott became legends by winning the Irish Championships in style, best technique, best power and endurance and most essentially best boat speed with Bann seeing off Skibbereen’s great sweep rowing hopes,  and returning the Bann Club to a new golden era.  All the girls the boys, the coaches, friends and parents were absolutely elated, and many more medals would be won over the next couple of days.

Next out were the Bann men’s eight who repeated the previous year’s podium winning performance where the previous year’s big three crews of Portora , Bish and Bann remained in the same order. A commendable crew effort, particularly from Andrew Cochrane, Tiernan Yarnold and Aaron Rogers at cox. A great first day, with the Championship golds, silver and bronzes being won by every boat raced by Bann.

Day two saw the boy’s fours battle through their semi-finals and both make the “A” final. With dreadful conditions out in lane one the Bann men just lost out on a bronze by coming fourth by under two seconds after 2,000m. Thankfully all four lads, Aaron Christie, John Smyth, Chris Parrish and Timmy Davidson are young enough to race in this event again next year.  The Bann ladies eight boated next, and really were up for a gigantic battle as conditions would favour the slightly lighter rival Portora crew. However in Brega Mullan, Erin Barry, Hannah Scott, Katie Shirlow, Fiona Chestnutt and Rebecca Meenagh; Bann had no less than six Internationals in their boat plus the excellent developing talents of Alana O’Donovan and Leah Wylie and were passionately coxed by Alex West.  In one of the best quality races of the entire Championships, Bann and Portora left the other eights far behind in their wake and in the tightest of races the Bann girls had the silvers. Another excellent effort ensuring now that everyone, including their coxes, had already won those treasured Championship medals.

So on to the final race of day two and, can you believe it, another gold for the Bann ladies Pair of Hannah Scott and Katie Shirlow and their strong finish rehearsed time and time again, “down the Bann wall” and their “will to win” saw them sweeping to a brilliant victory over arch rivals Portora, in the last dozen strokes of the race.  With two Championship golds apiece for Hannah and Katie and the quad races still to come these girls are setting enormous records for their individual tally of medals at one championship, and guess what, both girls are now in the same quad boat.  In the meantime the boys had seen Dylan Mitchell and Angus Hamilton battle through quarter & semi-finals to make the “A” final of the men’s double scull where they raced themselves into the ground before having to settle for a very credible fifth place. The same story applied to the young mens pair of 15 year old Aaron Christie and big Chris Parrish who had a tough semi-final before recording a very fast time, again finishing fifth in an exceptionally quick race which saw the L’Coupe pair from Portora, who were the firm favourites, beaten into third place.

However, an unusual event was about to occur in Bann’s final  race of the Championship. Both Bann ladies quads were in with a real chance of winning because in training both boats were almost inseparable and both contained Irish Internationals. However both quad boats were really lightening fast and it was going to take a truly formidable crew to beat them. The slight tailwind would favour the lighter Bann boat., but also would favour Skibbereen who had the classiest quad seen in Ireland for years and who had scratched their ladies eight to ensure all this crew were fresh for this event, their speciality. And so it proved, the Skibbereen quad , suited by the tailwind, just kept ahead of the two Bann boats who had a tremendous tussle with each other and right to the line they couldn’t be separated by more than a car number plate according to the race commentary.

On the jetty it was with joy that both sets of girls hugged and congratulated each other, and again the presentation podium was swamped in Bann colours. Special mention for unique individual medal wins must go to Katie Shirlow with two golds and two silvers in four events, and Hannah Scott, aged just sixteen, with a truly remarkable tally of two golds and three silvers in five events. Both girls would be the first to say that rowing is the ultimate team sport and they all this great squad had achieved it together.

Coach Jeremy Johnston congratulated coach Geoff Bones on their outstanding successes and said it indeed was the best ever Championship for the girls, and they had richly deserved every single medal as they were really remarkable rowers, extremely nice, pleasant girls, and all had tremendous determination and excellent technique. He was delighted that all the Bann lads were again Irish Championship medal winners  this year and that three of them, Dylan Timmy and Aaron, had now been selected to row for Ireland.

Captain Keith Leighton congratulated everyone saying that Bann had earned this tremendous medal haul of 2 golds, 3 silvers, and 3 bronzes, a grand collective Club total of 35 medals in events ranging from the single sculls, through to doubles, pairs, fours, quads and eights which really showed tremendous scope and talent from everybody associated with the Club. He also mentioned the gallant efforts applied to secure the honourable fourth, the two fifths and the sixth positions all in “A” finals.  Keith went on to thank the eighteen sets of parents who had made the long, but worthwhile journey down. He said that every single rower and both coxes, Alex and Aaron, were again returning home with precious Championship medals. He remarked that the late Bobbie Platt was indeed smiling down on the whole Club throughout this remarkable Championship. He heartily congratulated his great friend Geoff Bones on his incredible commitment and skills in achieving these wonderful results and, of course all the rowers themselves.

But the man of the Championship, and the Rolls Royce of coaches, was beyond question Geoffrey Bones. Geoff immediately paid tribute to his father Billy, a true Bann stalwart from yesteryear and to his own wife Karen, who was an Irish Champion and International rower for Bann herself and who had been so supportive and understanding throughout the years to ensure this success happened.  Geoff praised the commitment of every single girl, and added that they had all earned this fabulous championship by their dedication in training, their talent and their enormous will to win. He explained how difficult some of his final selections had been due to the tremendous closeness between them all and he was very relieved and proud that everything had turned out so well. He also attributed these best ever, fabulous, results to everyone in his coaching group and to his own coach and true Bann legend, the late Bobbie Platt MBE.

 

July 30th, 2015

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