The first boat from Ireland has been secured for Paris 2024 after a stellar performance from Katie O’Brien and Steven McGowan in the PR2 mixed double event at the World Rowing Championships in Belgrade.

It’s been 11 years since Ireland has had a crew compete in the Paralympics, with the PR3 mixed coxed four in London 2012, but Galway RC rowers O’Brien and McGowan have ensured that we’ll be represented again next year.

After not being able to find a double partner prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Katie O’Brien has finally been able to make her dream a reality at this World Championships. Steven McGowan, only picking up the sport less than two years ago, has made incredible progress to be competing at the level he is now.

A strong start in their heat had them right in the mix with World Cup III bronze medallists Michal Gadowski and Jolanta Majka of Poland. The 2022 World Champions, Ukraine, couldn’t hold the quick pace that was set and struggled to move into the top grouping.

With only one crew to progress straight into the A Final and pick up that qualifying position for the 2024 Paralympics, O’Brien and McGowan had to make a move to put themselves in that leading spot. Through the third 500 metres, Ireland were the fastest boat on the water and pushed their bow ahead of Poland. Winding up again coming into the finish, there was no catching O’Brien and McGowan and the ticket to Paris was theirs.

Up next was another Galway pairing of Fiona Murtagh and Aifric Keogh in the women’s pair repechage. With an incredible start, it was Ireland leading the field by over two seconds by the first 500m mark. Italy’s Aisha Rocek and Alice Codato made a push to try catch Fiona and Aifric coming to the halfway mark but weren’t able to break their lead.

With their first place finish Ireland are into the A/B Semis on Thursday morning. They’re now in the top 12 crews with 11 getting qualification spots for Paris 2024.

The men’s four of John Kearney, Jack Dorney, Adam Murphy and Fionn├ín McQuillan-Tolan missed out on the A/B Semis and will race the C Final after a fifth-place finish in their repechage.

They had a promising start sitting in second place through the halfway point. All the crews stayed in contention and coming into the last quarter Ireland had moved back to fifth but were still less than four second behind first place. There wasn’t enough left to push into the top three for a spot in the A/B Semi so they’ll have to settle for the C Final this Saturday.

Brian Colsh, Andrew Sheehan, Ronan Byrne and Konan Pazzaia were unlucky to miss the A/B Semi of the men’s quad with a fourth-place finish in their repechage. As the race progressed Ireland made their way closer to the top three, and in the final 500m were the fastest boat on the water but it wasn’t enough to edge them ahead of the American crew.

All races are being live-streamed on the World Rowing website. Details of the four Irish races involving Irish rowers can be found in our Daily Guide to Live Sport on TV and Streaming.