The biggest regatta of the season from an Irish perspective was held on the 18th and 19th July 2003 on Inniscarra Lake Co. Cork.
As the saying goes, at the end of the day it all boils down to the National Championships and UCD was represented in some style. The club had 8 entries overall; 3 at Intermediate level, 2 at Senior and 3 at Novice level.
The weekend could not have got off to a better start when the Inter Coxed Four of Dermot O’Sullivan, Siaghal MacColgain, Diarmaid MacColgain, Padraig Oliver and Fiona Mulcahy were victorious in the first block of finals on the Friday morning. They took command of their 5-boat straight final in the early stages but were challenged by a strong NUIG four all the way down the course. A final sprint at 400 metres to the line made sure of UCD’s first Championship win since taking the Intermediate Eights title back in 1998.
Celebrations were but on hold however since this group minus cox Fiona Mulcahy were to compete in the Senior Coxless Fours later on in the day. Two late withdrawals meant that it was to be another straight final with the winners of the Visitors Cup at Henley, the NUIG/Skibbereen composite being strong favourites. However they were to be challenged by a Galway/Tribes composite made up of International hopefuls, and Commercial, Garda and St.Micheals. The race got underway with UCD challenging for the lead in the first 300 metres. However from then it was a race for second place. Emerging from crippling rough water with 500 metres to go, College set off on a quick sprint to catch the Galway/Tribes crew 1 ½ length out ahead. The finish saw UCD come in 3rd place, a third of a length behind Galway/Tribes.
The Novice Eight of from bow; Glen Cunningham, James Skelly, Rob Grimes, Matt Minch, Hugh Kearney, Niall Davis, Eoin Christiansen, Eddie Mackle and Jim Lawless were real Championship contenders and certainly showed their determination on the day. Another straight final saw the crews line up at the stakeboats with Neptune and NUIG amongst the favourites. However it was UCC and Queens who made the frontrunning. After their 1000 metres push, the young College crew consisting of 5 first year oarsmen broke clear of Neptune. Another push at 500 to go saw them come right through NUIG however the leaders in lanes one and two were a push too far. UCC took the pot with Queens second and a very creditable and encouraging third from College.
Saturday morning saw Johnny Devitt competing in the most competitive event of the weekend with 26 entries, the Intermediate Single Scull. He showed his class in his heat by holding off Gary O’Neill from Neptune to take the final qualifying place in the toughest draw. In the semi-final later that morning, Johnny again showed his battling qualities by qualifying through what was widely agreed as the toughest heat once more. He stuck close to the leaders to take the final qualifying spot ahead of strong favourite Dave Heffernan from Old Bones and Connla Edwards of Commercial. Unfortunately, the tough draw and a recurrent injury caught up on Johnny who did not fire in the final. Former UCD oarsman Con Collis was pipped at the line by Hughie Lynch, brother of Sam, of St.Micheals.
The Novice Four of Chris Collins, Bryan O’Connell, Declan Curran, Ed Kearney and Martha Wilson had a good row in their heat but were unable to qualify from a tough draw, which included Neptune and Trinity.
With one eye on the Intermediate Pairs title later in the day and with the NUIG/Skibbereen composite racing once again, the Inter four decided to scratch their Senior Coxed Four entry to allow the MacColgain brothers to recuperate. Unfortunately, the weekend concluded on a disappointing note when the pair were disqualified due to steering difficulties.