The O’Connell Championship Cup Presentation to St. Michael’s Rowing Club

by Gazette Reporter
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The O’Connell Championship Cup was presented by the Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Cllr. Denis O’Callaghan, to the winning crew from St. Michael’s Rowing Club at County Hall and was attended by local councillors, St. Michael’s Rowing Club members, council staff and representatives of Rowing Ireland.

Cllr. Denis O’Callaghan, Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, commented: 

“I am delighted to see that the O’Connell Championship Cup has been revived as it is a race that is very important to the people of the county. This tradition plays a key role in our lives and by having this championship reinstated, we are acknowledging the efforts of those in the past but also looking to developing this initiative into the future. I would like to congratulate St Michael’s Rowing Club from Dún Laoghaire on winning this year’s renewal and to thank all those that competed on the day.”

There is a rich historical background to the race, which was held for the first time in 1875, when a trophy was presented to the people of Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) and Dalkey, to commemorate the centenary of Daniel O’Connell’s birth. The cup was awarded to the winning crew in a rowing event held during the Kingstown Regatta. This year, after a gap of over 70 years, St. Michael’s Rowing Club teamed up with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to revive the event, which will be held annually going forward.

St. Michael’s RC Chairperson, Simone Sav said:

“Our club has been around since the 1920s and particularly in the last decades, we have grown from a handful of volunteers to a vibrant club of more than 150 youth and adult members. Our mission is to promote the sport of coastal rowing in Dún Laoghaire and beyond, by rowing east coast skiffs primarily, as well as other types of coastal and offshore boats. Through our day-to-day activities, we keep the tradition of the local hobblers of old alive.”

The race, which involved traditional east coast fixed seat skiffs, was held as part of the Coastival celebrations in July 2023 and saw mixed crews of four rowers (two female and two male) plus a coxswain, battle it out in a sprint across Dún Laoghaire harbour. The twelve participating rowers do not regularly compete or train together and were selected from more than thirty people who put themselves forward, by means of a chance draw. The winning crew consisted of Sonja Storm, Martin Dowd, Tommy Hammill, Sarah Good Leonard and coxswain Gary Byrne. 

7th September 2023 Pictured at the presentation to St. Michael’s Rowing Club. Photo by Peter Cavanagh

The evening held one sweet surprise in store, as one of the members of the 2023 winning crew, Gary Byrne, saw his grandfather’s name, John Byrne, engraved on the O’Connell Championship Cup dating back to 1944. When rowing runs in the family, 79 years is not too long a time to share the same passion.

The race will be held every year, with more crews joining next year.

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