Jack Butler, a 15-year-old rower from Neptune Rowing Club in Islandbridge, is set to don the green vest and compete in the prestigious Coupe de la Jeunesse, an international team rowing event that’s taken place annually since 1985.
This year’s event features a team of 32 rowers (16 boys and 16 girls) from our shores, and will be hosted in Cork.
It will see teams from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland compete for the overall title.
Races run from July 27 to July 29 at the National Rowing Centre at Inniscarra Lake, and are open to rowers aged under 18.
The location of the competition changes year on year, and having the event at home is a huge boost to the Irish team, who are looking to overturn the longstanding dominance of Great Britain, Italy and France.
The only three past winners have between 14 and 8 overall wins each.
Butler, from Celbridge, has been rowing since he turned nine, but only started to take an international call up seriously around the turn of the year, as he began to impress at the highly competitive Ireland trials.
“About 60 people were there to start with, and I was finishing about 12th,” Butler recalls.
“They moved on to invite-only trials for the top twenty, at 6,000 metre and 2,000 metre distances in the single sculls. I kept at it and qualified for the fours.”
Butler also has a background in rugby and hurling but has quit both now in favour of pursuing the rowing more seriously. He is coached by his dad, Colm Butler, with a love for the sport clearly running in the family.
Colm is a former World Championship competitor, representing Ireland in the 80s, while Jack’s older brother is a key member at Trinity College’s rowing club.
Butler junior has hefty ambitions of his own, pointing to Cork’s Olympic medalists the O’Donovan brothers as proof of how far Irish rowers can go.
“I’m light for rowing, and that’s something I’ll have to work on. I’m probably one of the lightest on the team,” Butler says. “That means I’m better at sprinting.
“I’d love to emulate by dad and go to the World Championships. Obviously the Olympics would be an unbelievable dream.”
“A lot of rowing is about mental strength,” he explains.
“My dad tells me when you’re side by side with someone, it’s about keeping your hand in the fire longer than anyone else. That’s what I plan to do.”