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29 Sept 2022

Donegal Women In Sport - Méabh making waves in international rowing

Meet the Barnesmore teen representing Ireland in three international events

Donegal Women In Sport - Méabh making waves in international rowing

Méabh McNamara represented Ireland in the U18 Solo Beach Sprints in Scotland

Barnesmore teenager Méabh McNamara is proving to be a committed and inspirational young sportswoman.

The 17-year-old rower made her international debut last weekend, representing Ireland at the Home International Beach Sprints in St Andrews, Scotland. 

Competing for her country has been in Méabh’s sights for some time now, and she is hoping that this is only the beginning of her international career.

She told the Donegal Democrat: “I’ve always wanted to row for Ireland so it was a dream come true to participate in an international event at the age of 17.

“I met the team three weeks before the event at a training camp in Arklow where we also got our team gear. Everyone from athletes to boat handlers and everyone in between were so nice and I know I have made lifelong friendships on the team. 

“It was an honour and privilege to row at St Andrews wearing the green Irish one piece and it will be a memory I will cherish forever.”

Opportunity

It was an opportunity to try rowing through the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town which sparked Méabh’s love for the sport. 

“I started rowing when I was 13,” she said. 

“Patrick Brady and Sharon Meehan from Donegal Bay Rowing Club came to our school for an eight-week block of rowing coaching during our PE lessons. 

“I instantly fell in love with the sport and never looked back.”

So what was it about rowing that appealed to Méabh so much that she has now achieved international athlete status?

She said: “Growing up I tried numerous different sports but none of them were as special to me as rowing. 

“All the club members were so welcoming and encouraging from day one. The coaches Patrick Brady, Seamus Maguire and Luke Keaney are constantly pushing me to improve and row to the best of my ability. 

“The feeling of rowing a boat through Donegal Bay in rain, hail or shine is indescribable. The adrenaline that comes with coastal rowing is next to nothing I have ever felt before.”

New Challenges

Having completed Transition Year, Méabh is now starting into the Leaving Cert cycle.

This will bring new challenges, but she is determined to keep rowing at the highest possible level, and is fully aware of the level of commitment involved.

“Balancing training with study will be a bit more difficult than the last few months,” said Méabh. “I train most evenings and plan to keep this up for the future.”

And with two major international competitions coming up in the next few months, the Barnesmore girl has plenty of motivation.

“In October, I will be competing for Ireland in two events,” she said.  

“Firstly, I have the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals on October 14 to 16 in Saundersfoot, Wales, in which I will be rowing in a double with my partner Grace Masterson. 

“I will be competing in a single in the European Rowing Beach Sprint Championships in San Sebastian, Spain on October 27 to 30. 

“It will be a busy month of training and racing but I am beyond excited to compete for my country again.”

Long term, Méabh plans to keep developing as a rower, and to use her experience to benefit her club. 

“I will continue to train hard after the competitions in October,” she said.

“I have one more year of rowing in the junior category before I move to seniors. 

“I will make the most of every opportunity and use what I learn to help myself improve as well as passing it on to other club members.”

And there is a world of opportunity opening up for those who compete in the relatively new discipline of Beach Sprints.

“The Beach Sprint event of rowing that I compete in is being introduced to the 2028 Olympics so I hope that someday I might have a chance to row at the Olympics,” said Méabh.

The Beach Sprint format starts with a sprint on the beach of between 10m and 50m. After entering the boat, the rower slaloms around two buoys then turns around a third buoy at 250m and rows straight back to the beach before the rower exits the boat and runs to the finish line.

It is fast-paced, with races often being decided by fractions of a second. Furthermore, no two events are ever the same, with tides, waves, winds, changing currents, local conditions and even the type of sand underfoot affecting competitors. 

It is clear listening to Méabh that she relishes all the challenges of her sport, and she works hard to be ready for any conditions that race days can present.

Though she herself is competing at the highest level, Méabh believes that anyone can enjoy rowing. 

“I would recommend for anyone no matter their age or ability to try rowing at some point,” she said. 

“The last four years I’ve spent as part of Donegal Bay Rowing Club have been some of the best in my life. The experiences and opportunities you can get from the sport, especially coastal rowing, will stay with you forever.”

Support

Méabh is very much aware of the support network around her which has helped her to develop as a rower and to focus her attention on training.

“I would like to thank my coaches Patrick, Seamus and Luke as well as all the other members of Donegal Bay Rowing Club,” she said. “I would not be the rower I am today without their continuous encouragement and support. 

“I am also greatly appreciative of the Seamanship Centre Killybegs, The Central Hotel, Moll Industries Ireland Ltd, Magee 1866 and O’Reillys for their sponsorship of international events. 

“And a big thank you to my parents, family and friends who have supported me every step of the way.”

When asked if there were any sportswomen that she has been inspired by, Méabh replied: “From a very young age, I have admired Katie Taylor’s drive and determination to do well as a woman in sport, which is a sentiment we share.”

While there are many more opportunities for women in sport than in the past, the importance of role models cannot be underestimated. And Méabh is well on the way to being an inspiration in her own school, club and community, and on a bigger international stage.

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