Saturday 2 March saw a fantastic Head of River with a record entry of crews from all across Ireland. Despite the very difficult weather conditions it was a marvellous success and a great example of the powerful impact of perseverance, planning and team work even when the conditions make success difficult. Congratulations to Mr Holland and his team of staff and pupils for making it all happen and so successfully. The Boat Club crews also brought home a great number of successes.
The 62nd Erne Head not only survived the poor weather but produced some much needed racing for the top crews in Ireland. It was the first event of the calendar year and it did not disappoint, with 88 finishers from the four provinces. The brunt of the inclement weather on Saturday occurred around race time and tested the endurance of the younger crews who had to launch early and wait at the start. A strong SW wind also made it difficult to get to the start but there was some respite on the way home as the lumpy following breeze gave assistance, but did not raise the temperature! The winners were Commercial rowing club from Dublin who pushed Trinity back into second place for the first time in a number of years. Enniskillen Royal Junior 18 boys VIII won the Junior class, and were 5th overall beating some men’s senior crews. With four of last year’s successful eight on board and some promising newcomers they used all of cox Rory Farragher’s local knowledge, and Michael Stewart’s stroking to repel all opponents. It would be remiss of your reporter to not mention late substitute Charlie Smith’s contribution – as a 14-year-old tyro in the bow seat! The rest of the crew were made up of Odhran Donaghy, Sam Balcombe, Peter Murphy, Ben Corrigan, Joshua Timoney and Lewis Nixon. The girls J18 VIII of Cox-Sarah Dolan, Maeve Donnelly, Zoe McCutcheon, Carragh Leonard, Jenny Little, Abby Corry, Victoria Wilson, Martha McBrien and Trudie McComb were expected to win, and did so with some style. They are a young crew with fine cohesion and uniformity, and were the second fastest women’s crew overall- being beaten only by Trinity – but with experienced Enniskillen rower Miriam Kelly in the Trinity crew they weren’t going to be slow. At Junior 16 level the Enniskillen girls also won handsomely against Coleraine. The gratifying thing here was that they row similarly to the older girls, and stroked aggressively by Nikki Kernaghan they will be hard to beat this season. At Junior 15 boys level, the performance of the eight led by Tom Blake, Luke Paton, Conor Richardson, Marcus Davis-Kunze, Nathan Kelly, David Trotter, Joshua Martin and Kyle Abraham was only recently put together because of illness and injury to two of their members, was extremely satisfying. In very challenging conditions when they actually raced, Frankie Reihill, the cox, in his first race coped admirably. Mention must also be made of the Girls octuple crew – eight young girls with two oars each – were the first to launch and had to wait until all other crews got up to the start for quite a while. Abigail Linton from St Fanchea’s was at stroke followed by Keeva Corry, Aine McCaffery, Niamh Campbell, Clodagh O’Donnell, Angel Huang, Cristiona McCaffery and Rachel Cullinan, and they steamed down the course passing some crews on their way – a baptism of fire for 27 minutes for these girls for the future. Derek Holland the race organiser took the wise decision before the race started, to pull out some of the younger Enniskillen rowers who would have been subjected to very cold conditions, and would not have benefitted from the event at all. Their time will come next weekend in Belfast! The MS 4X- was an experimental crew stroked by Jack McDade, Nathan Timoney, Jack Kennedy and in the bow seat, Loyd Seaman for his first row for some time but came over from London to aid his old club. In their first outing they raced an experienced Lagan Scullers crew to finish only a creditable 3 seconds adrift. There are three other notable achievements to mention, in that the Portora alumni and parents’ and friends’ crew had their best Head result since being founded a couple of years ago -3rd overall who were stroked by Alan Crooks for the first time. They also had a second eight who performed magnificently. The Portora women’s crew stroked by Valerie Crawford had their first race, and beat a Galway university alumni crew of similar vintage!
Before the main event there was an enjoyable little ceremony performed when three new sculls were christened- each with a story. Pat Blake of Blake’s of the Hollow produced a fine black coloured scull with their name on it – surrounded by members of the family, some of whom row, it made a fine picture. So also did the naming of another scull -Charlie- after Charlie Timoney – grandfather of the Timoney brothers rowing clan -Josh, Callum and Nathan. The last story belongs to Niall Mills an Old Portoran who rowed, and donated a scull to the club named after his late father John Mills. There was a tinge of sadness, as the family were unable to attend but Canon Kingston was on hand to perform the duty. And all in all it was quite a Fermanagh occasion as the presence of Monsignor Peter O’Reilly ensured the ecumenical touch underpinning the club ethos was to the fore.
Special thanks are also given to numerous volunteers who provided their assistance on the day including, the PSNI, RNLI and Waterways Ireland.
Click on the link below to see the overview of results.