FOR a small club boasting 50 boats and 135 rowers, the Castleconnell Boat club has been punching well above its perceived weight in recent times.
Teaching people a love of the river and rowing since 1983, the club has the advantage of one of the most beautiful stretches of water between O’Brien’s Bridge and the appropriately named World’s End. Every day during summer, young enthusiasts can be seen on the river, trying their hand at the sport while taking part in the rowing summer camps.
Some of the novice rowers may well go on to join the club’s extraordinary roll of honour.
Castleconnell has 12 rowers representing Ireland internationally, the highest number of any club in the country.
Their teams took three national championship titles in one weekend recently and to put that in perspective, the club had taken seven titles over 35 years before that.
Two of its members, Conor Mulready and James O’Donovan, rowed in the World Junior Championships in Prague this month.
“We get a lot of our members from the summer camps and we have a great spread of ages,’ said Club President, Owen Silke.
He explained that the club has a total of 95 juniors – rowers aged under 18 – with the range of ages going from 11 to Master Rowers, one of whom is a sprightly 80 years of age.
The club is growing and has an impressive clubhouse and gym, with facilities for up to 30 people when conditions are too bad to be on the water.
And there’s plenty of training with juniors putting in ten hours a week and turning out to row before school at 6.30am.
They are currently building two more boat bays to store their equipment, which will be built by club volunteers in the coming weeks.
Volunteering is a very important part of the club’s activities because they provide all their own fundraising for a sport that requires specialised equipment. The price tag on just one boat is in the region of €12,000.
The club holds a regatta, a 10 k and a triathlon every year to raise funds.
“It’s a shame there isn’t funding available when you consider it’s a sport which has absolutely no alcohol involved. The rowers couldn’t go out on the town and then turn out to train at 6.30am.
“We go to regattas every week and then there’s training every day so it becomes a very social activity as well. The club is growing and that’s down to the hard work and dedication of the members,” said Owen.
This article is part of a Limerick Post Special Feature, available to read in full here.