On a glorious autumn day, Jenny and brother Peter made it a family double while former European junior champion Ronan Foley made a winning debut in his first senior race at the 60th Liffey Descent canoe marathon on Saturday (September 14).
In the men’s K2 class, three boats had broken away early on in the race, and halfway through the race at Lucan weir, they were still together, with Foley and partner Nikolai Thomsen of Denmark lying second behind Neil Fleming and Barry Watkins at Lucan weir, and Argentinian pair Sebastien Fergauven and Sebastien Jocano right behind them.
“We paddled pretty consistently throughout the race and then sprinted up and took the lead about a kilometre from the finish,” said Foley, a previous junior K1 winner in the race, who was paddling K2 for the first time. With waters high for the first time in many years, their time was 1 hour 46 minutes 40 seconds, giving them victory by nine seconds over Fleming and Watkins.
The idea to paddle K2 at the Liffey Descent had come from Thomsen’s father. “He had heard of the Liffey from other Danish paddlers and suggested I come to Ireland. Then I thought – I can team up with Ronan!” he says. Thomsen, aged 18, is a year younger than Foley and the pair have competed against each other at international level for the past three years.
Finishing first mixed K2 in a new best time of 1 hour 51 minutes 52 seconds were Jenny Egan and her fiancé Jonathan Simms of Salmon leap Canoe Club. It means that Egan has an almost perfect record in this category with seven wins in K2 boats alone since her first Liffey Descent in 2003. “We finished four minutes faster than in 2015 when we also set a record. It was my 16th Liffey Descent and we’re delighted,” said Egan.
Brother Peter was winning men’s K1 for the first time in a long career. “I’ve finished third many times in K1 and had a few wins in K2. I’m 40 now and it’s taken me that long,” he said. His time was 1:57 43. Finishing second was Donnacha Brennan of Thomastown Canoe Club while third and first over 39 was Dermot Hudson, another Salmon Leap paddler. Winning the over 59 class was Malcolm Banks, another prolific winner at the race down the years and another Salmon Leap club member. Banks won his first of many Liffey Descent titles in 1978. “I’m lucky to have had such a long career and as long as I am able, I’ll continue. I’ve a demanding job and when I’m out paddling all the stress of the job is gone,” he says.
The Leixlip-based club was having a good day and finishing second in mixed K2 were Deaglain O Drisceoil and Aisling Smith, both of them previous winners in various categories.
Among other winners for the club were Gary Mawer and Simon van Lonkhuysen who were taking a third consecutive victory in the men’s over 39 K2 class, with their club mates David Francis and Declan Halton finishing second.
Winning junior K1 for a second year was Senan Forristal of Thomastown Paddlers, who in August was first junior K1 at the Sella Descent in Spain. Retaining their C2 title were Ken Boland and Roger McClure of Kilkenny Aqua CC)
Thanks to the long wet summer and a good flood provided by the ESB, conditions on the course were the best in some years, which means times all round were fast. The only problem came at the portage around the Leixlip reservoir where the water levels were low and paddlers had to trudge their way through shin-deep silt carrying their boats. The ‘ghost weir’ also made a re-appearance with its two-metre drop causing problems for many paddlers.
Winning the trophy for best club – based on the combined best times in K1 and K2 – was Salmon Leap Canoe Club. A long lost trophy for the first nation which re-surfaced in the past few months was awarded to Ireland, with England second.
K2 – Men’s:
1 Ronan Foley (Salmon Leap CC)/Nikolai Thomsen (Denmark) 1:46.40,
2 Neil Fleming (Celbridge Paddlers)/ Barry Watkins (Salmon Leap CC) 1:46.49,
3 Sebastien Fergauven/Sebastien Jocano (Argentina) 1:47.16.
1 Simon van Lonkhuyzen/Gary Mawer (Salmon Leap CC) 1:55.59,
2 David Francis/Declan Halton (Salmon Leap CC) 1:59.28,
3 Lutz Erichsen/Peter M. Jensen (Denmark) 2:04.09.
1 Jonathan Simmons/Jenny Egan (Salmon Leap CC) 1:51.52,
2 Deaglan O Drisceoil/Aisling Smith (Salmon Leap CC) 1:57.58,
3 Nicky Cresser/Alison Chmiel (Nottingham CC) 2:07.20.
K1 – Senior Men:
1 Peter Egan (Salmon Leap) 1:57.43,
2 Donnacha Brennan (Thomastown CC) 2:00.22,
3 Odhran McNally (Salmon Leap CC) 2:01.33.
1 Dermot Hudson (Salmon Leap CC) 1:59.36,
2 Stewart O’Regan (Salmon Leap CC) 2:04.12,
3 John Parker (Worcester CC) 2:13.19.
1 Malcolm Banks (Salmon Leap CC) 2:02.50,
2 James Butler (Nottingham CC) 2:06.38,
3 Neil Blackman (Royal Leamington Spa) 2:08.39.
1 Senan Forristal (Thomastown Paddlers) 2:01.04,
2 Matthew McCartney (Celbridge Paddlers) 2:08.077,
3 Alex O’Brien (Celbridge Paddlers) 2:20.15.
1 Margaret Farrell (Canoing Ireland) 2:56.23,
2 Sara Griffin (UCD CC) 3:10.46, 3 Amy Walsh (West Cork KC)
3:21.38. Junior women: 1 Aoibhin Ni Broin (Galway CC) 2:39.23.
1 Sean Martin/Eddie Martin (Piragua Madrid/Richmond CC) 2:14.39,
2 Fergus Cooper/Morgan Cooper (Canoeing Ireland) 2:16.07,
3 Lar O’Brien/Michael O’Farrell (Kilcullen CC) 2:19.00.
Wildwater – Open:
1 Darragh Clarke (Wild Water KC) 2:15.4,
2 Maggie Dilai (Nottingham KC) 2:17.49,
3 Alex Sheppy (Devizes CC) 2:26.26
K1 Class B – Men:
1 Colin Wong (Canoeing Ireland) 2:29.46,
2 Mark Redmond (Wild Water KC) 2:30.45,
3 Padraig Dunne Athy Rowing and CC) 2:37.25.
1 Gerry Murphy (Canoeing Ireland) 2:32.12,
2 Edward Broekaart (Canoeing Ireland) 2:34.33,
3 Gary McClure (Belfast CC) 2:36.05
1 Cameron Bannatyne (Soar Valley) 2:18.33,
2 Ethan Dowling (Ribbontail Paddlers) 2:47.03,
3 Michael O’Herlihy (Wild Water KC) 2:48.18
K1 Class C: Men:
1 Craig Stratford (Virginia KC) 2:54.10,
2 Brian James (Cabra KC) 2:56.59,
3 Wojciech Szydlo (Silverbridge KC) 2:59.48.
1 Terry Smith (Athy Rowing and CC) 2:37.10,
2 Andrew Redmond (Wild Water KC) 2:39.30
3 Dermot Forristal (Thomastown Paddlers) 2:39.44.
1 Daniel Stratford (Virginia KC) 2:38.40,
2 Barry Stratford (Virginia KC) 2:41.29,
3 Alex Russell (Canoeing Ireland) 2:44.35.
1 Ciara Gurhy (Wild Water KC) 2:47.45,
2 Helen Flanagan (Share Centre) 2:55.53,
3 Yvonne Crosse (Phoenix KC) 3:04.21.
1 Fiona Kelly (Wildwater KC) 2:49.50,
2 Yvonne Kelly (Castleknock Community College KC) 2:50.38,
3 Mary Fitzgerald (Athy Rowing and CC) 2:58.27.
1 Emma Fay (Ribbontail Paddlers) 3:14.20,
2 Rachel Alexander (Virginian KC) 3:20.04.
1 Stephen Dunne (Mullingar CC) 3:11.16,
2 Andy Jeffers (Phoenix CC) 3:26.30,
3 Paul Magee (Canoeing Ireland) 4:05.55
1 Ben Boland/Roger McClure (Kilkenny Aqua CC) 2:37.26,
2 Gearoid Jones/James Dillon (DIT CC) 2:47.54
3 Gerry Coonan/Gerry O’Brien (Wild Water KC) 3:00.42.
1 Elaine Alexander/Richard Hobson (CANI/Lisburn City Paddlers) 2:57.58,
2 Colin Lively/Jacqui McVicar (Share Centre) 3:06.04,
3 Eamonn Dodd/Lynda Byron (Wild Water KC) 3:15.50.
1 D Comerford/S O’Neill/S O’Neill (Thomastown Paddlers) 2:48.24,
2 Y Kalogerakis/ D Holden/B Comerford (Canoeing Ireland) 2:51.20,
3 K Durkan/S Durkan/M Fitzsimon (Celbridge Paddlers) 3:00.20.
Best club (combined K1 and K2 times) :
Salmon Leap Canoe Club, leixlip
Pics at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lindie/; free to download.