“I grew up in Dublin, Ireland and like many kids there played a big variety of sports but focused on rugby and soccer until I finished secondary school, without ever being exceptional at either. I stayed in Ireland for my undergraduate studies but didn’t get involved in any organised sports, instead I just played in social 5-aside soccer leagues and went to the university’s gym and pool. I had planned on continuing with rugby in university but the insurance cost of 300 euro per year plus travel expenses put me off, the class surf trips were cheaper and I was easily persuaded. I came to Cambridge in Michaelmas 2019 as a Part III maths graduate student and had planned on reigniting my rugby career but quickly realised that the one match a week and more social than training sessions of college rugby alone wouldn’t keep me fit so wandered down to the CCBC fresher’s BBQ and was quickly whipped up in the college rowing scene.
I tend to say that I learnt to row at Churchill and this is true but it wasn’t my first experience in a rowing boat. When I was 15 I broke my collarbone playing rugby and after recovering enough to remove the sling, but not enough to return to the pitch, I tried out a bit of rowing at my friend’s club. However that was not an enjoyable experience, normally 12 or so would turn up at 08:00 in the centre of Dublin on a Saturday or Sunday and the same 8 experienced people would go out in an 8+ while me and the other newer recruits were left to fend for ourselves on some rowing machines for the morning before heading home. I was only too glad when I got the all clear to leave that behind and return to the rugby pitch.
Churchill College boat club on the other hand, I have found to be accommodating for everyone of any level and commitment. From graduate students only interested in going out for a paddle twice a month in the summer evenings to keen novices willing to commit to 10 sessions a week in the hope of moving the first boat up the bumps charts. There is a boat and a community for all. On account of my previous “experience” I somehow skipped the usual novice pathway and went straight into M2 and after a Michaelmas and Lent’s bumps campaign I was hooked. I returned after the COVID lockdowns as an LBC in the club from 2020-2021 and then men’s captain from 2021-2022.
During my time at CCBC I have not only come to appreciate the club, but also the sport. As I said above, I grew up playing team sports but threw myself into running for the year of COVID forced lockdown and enjoyed both for different reasons. People often describe rowing as the ultimate team sport – I disagree. Rowing is somewhere in between a team sport and an individual pursuit and it gets the best out of both as a result. It has the community and sense of “we are in this together” of team sports (and of course ultimately you win or lose as a team) but the training is largely individual – you are solely responsible for what your blade is doing and the erg scores are representative of the work you have done.
As I come to the conclusion of my time at Cambridge, as my PhD wraps up, it feels like a logical next step in trialling this year. I have achieved a lot in the various teams at CCBC and have simultaneously enjoyed seeing my personal development as a rower on and off the water in the years. What better way to test myself and squeeze out the last bits of development and hopefully experience some more success than by trialling for a seat in CUBC. The thought of training hard and consistently with a driven group of like-minded people determined to maximise their own potential seems exceptionally appealing to me.”