Portadown star Sam McKeown sets sights on World Championship success

Sam McKeown, member of the Portadown Rowing Club.
Sam McKeown, member of the Portadown Rowing Club.

Sam McKeown, local member of the Portadown Rowing Club has set his sights on the World Under 23 rowing championships after a stellar rise through the ranks of local, national and now international rowing.

Sam, who only joined the rowing club in 2012 was immediately spotted as a potential talent, both because of his innate technique and also his strong drive to reach the top.

Born and raised in Portadown Sam has been working at Moy Park in recent years but hopes to further his education next year at Belfast Met.

The selection trials started back in September with each assessment narrowing down the list of potential contenders for selection to go to a selection of world cup, European championships, World Under 23 and Senior World Championships.

The World Under 23 Championships, which begin in mid July are held this year in Plovdiv in central Bulgaria, and Sam says that he can’t wait to get into the water.

“I knew as soon as I started to row that it was the sport for me,” he said.

“I’m now completely focused on the final few weeks of training ahead of the world championships, and I want to come home with a medal.

“I’d really like to place on record my huge debt to everyone involved in Portadown rowing club especially Ronald Walker who has coached me for the past three years, for the clubs support and encouragement over the past few years.

“I’d also like to thank the staff and coaches at the National Rowing centre in Cork, whose guidance over the past few weeks has been invaluable, including of course my coaches James Mangan and Don McLachlan. I do hope that I can do them proud in Bulgaria.”

In 2013 Sam trialled for entry onto the Rowing Ireland International team and his ergometer score drew the attention of the Ulster Talent scout.

In March 2013 Sam achieved Irish Indoor Championship for Under 23 and Irish Championship status in the single scull at Novice level.

At the same Championships he competed at Intermediate and Senior level coming respectively sixth and third.

Trialling again for the Irish squad he progressed through to final selection trials in June where he just fell short of being selected for a place in the double scull to go to World U23 championships.

Undeterred Sam was selected for the Home Internationals to row for Ireland and for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Championship regatta held alongside the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow’s Strathclyde Park rowing course. There he and Tiernan Oliver raced in the double and achieved a Bronze medal.

At the Ulster Indoor Championships in November Sam achieved the second fastest time of the day.At the Irish indoor Championship Sam again regained his under 23 Championship title.

This success resulted in being invited to participate in the February and March trials at the National Rowing Centre on Inishcarra Lake Cork.

Here he proved to be the best under 23 heavyweight in Ireland and was selected along with Eric Rowan (Skibbereen) and Andrew Griffin (UCD) to trial for the U23 Worlds double. In the lead up to the final selection trials Sam has been training with Eric and Anrew.

In their pre-trial preparations they have been coached by Ronald Walker and James Mangan. Rowing Ireland announced on Saturday that they would be taking Sam and Andrew as a double to the U23 World championships on 22-26 July.