Luke Keaney, Rozy Temple and Patrick Boomer
Donegal rowers Luke Keaney, Rozy Temple and Patrick Boomer were in Italy last weekend for a European Coastal Rowing Challenge event.
Luke and Rozy qualified for the Endurance Doubles final, as did Patrick in the Singles, but there was huge disappointment on Sunday when the finals had to be cancelled due to weather conditions.
However, there was some comfort for the Donegal contingent as they got to take part in the Beach Sprints event on Saturday, a discipline that is expected to be upgraded to Olympic standard in the very near future.
"It was an unbelievable experience, but like anything in life when you are preparing for a final and it's out of your control, it is very disappointing.
"We still had an amazing trip and it was an eye-opener. When you are competing against professional and full-time athletes, it was the scale of the level that they are at. It was a massive learning experience for me personally," said Keaney.
"From our point of view, me and Rosy learned a lot. The conditions were nothing like we had seen before," said Keaney, who said the waves in the Mediterranean were completely different.
The pair had qualified for the final on Friday and Keane felt they would be even more competitive for the final.
"On the Saturday we did the Beach Sprints, and that's what is going to become an Olympic sport. To just try that and compete," said Keaney, whose appetite has been whetted.
Apart from himself and Rosy, Donegal had Patrick Boomer taking part as well, and he had also qualified for Sunday's final and he also took part in the Beach Sprints.
"We would always have been training for the Endurance event, which is 6km, it was nice to try the Sprint side as well," said Keaney, who said the Spanish pair that beat them had come third in the worlds.
"It was rewarding for the hard work that we had put in, but there was also a sour taste that there was unfinished business. I know that Rosy felt that as well. We knew ourselves that we had another level, and it's hard to come away from an event satisfied when you know that you didn't get to perform at your full potential."
The trip allowed Keaney and Temple to mix and find out what is happening in the other countries and there was some criticism of the organisers that they didn't have a Plan B when the weather intervened.
But the one thing that Luke Keaney has taken from the trip is that he wants to put himself in with a chance of making the Irish team for the Olympics.
"Now we know what the standards are for the Beach Sprints," said Keaney, who says the Worlds are being held in Portugal next year.
"My personal goal would be if there was an opportunity (I would take it)," says Keaney, who says once the Beach Sprints event becomes an Olympic event it will be on an equal footing with River Boat Rowing as regards elite funding.
It is expected that a decision to include the Beach Sprint event at Olympic level will be made shortly and Keaney expects that a Beach Sprints competition will be held in Ireland next year, which will be a qualifier for the Olympics.
"To see that you are in a bracket with those competitors and that you are not a million miles away, you don't know what the future could hold."
The Italy trip has only helped to fuel the fire that has been lit within Luke Keaney.
"I need to get to more competitions to get used to actually competing. From my point of view personally, winning an All-Ireland medal in Kerry (in Coastal Rowing finals), it reignited that I had found something. I don't know what's the future in it, but if I just keep the head down.
"One door has closed (GAA) but I have ignited a new fire. You are never going to replace football and you're only going to be wondering 'what if?'. But I have a new goal now, a new focus, something I can sink my teeth into."
At this stage Keaney is looking at another trip in December - to Monaco - to take part in another very competitive event, while his eyes are firmly fixed on next year, which he says will be a very big year for him personally.
He will be aiming at Irish, European and World events in both the Endurance events with his partners Rozy Temple and Paddy McGlynn and also at the Beach Sprint with Rozy.
BUSY WEEKEND UPCOMING FOR KEANEYS
Luke is not the only member of the Keaney family who are living through a busy schedule. Sister Kate is part of the Donegal team who play Dublin in the championship this Saturday while younger brother Jack will be involved on Saturday also in the First Division/Premier Division promotion play-offs with UCD. Jack hit one of the goals for the Dublin College in their draw with Galway United on Tuesday night.
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