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Irish rowers book final spots while McClenaghan impresses

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In their latest display of unrivalled spirit and class on the water, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy cruised to victory in their heat of the men’s lightweight double sculls at the Sea Forest Waterway on Saturday morning, reminding all those present the Irish boat is unquestionably the one to beat in Tokyo.

With only the top two sure of advancing to Tuesday’s semi-final there wasn’t much room for error, as some of the other Irish boats would discover, only the Cork duo made sure and then some, almost five seconds clear of runners-up Czech Republic who came through to beat Poland into third.

For the reigning World and European champions, it was business as usual in every sense.

“It is, it is just a normal regatta, it’s no different to any other,” said O’Donovan with his undaunted trademark.

“I suppose it went reasonably well, yeah, we won the race and it’s hard to do much better than win the race. And you don’t want to win it by 20 seconds either because it’s very hot out there. I’m not saying we could have won it by 20 seconds. It was still tough, like. All the races at this regatta will be tough but it is difficult to complain with that result as well.”

McCarthy, rowing in his first Olympics, agreed: “Just more so getting a race down the course. Once we’re out of the village and down here it just feels like a normal regatta really. It was nice to get the first one done. We row and train in all different conditions anyway so we are well used to whatever wind gets thrown at us. Just being adaptable and doing what we do in training.”

In a similar display of coolness in the face of the searing heat, the Irish women’s four of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty booked their place straight into Wednesday’s final, after a superbly timed effort that saw them finish just 0.2 of a second behind favourites Australia.

“It was exciting, great to get going,” said Keogh. “We had been waiting since yesterday when the rest of the crew started and then this morning as well, kind of sitting there waiting to go in, so it was a relief to go out there and give a good performance.

“We hadn’t raced that crew specifically before. The last time we would have come up against an Australian crew was 2019. So it’s been a long time since we raced them.

“I think our time was pretty similar [to what we had been doing]. I think the Australians got an Olympic best today. We were obviously just point two behind them. In these conditions it’s hard to read into times. We were the faster heat of the two but we saw yesterday with the other races, the times were changing quite rapidly in the conditions so it’s not something we’d rely on. We wanted to test every element of our race. It wasn’t a case of bringing it down coming into the last bit, we wanted to practice our final sprint and all that so yeah we did go for it.”

There were mixed results for the other three Irish crews on the water: in the women’s lightweight doubles, Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen ended up fifth in their heat, 14.20 seconds off the leading French crew. Again only the top two here went directly to the semi-finals, which means the Irish pair will be back in action in Sunday’s repechage.

Likewise with Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska, who missed out on automatic qualification to the women’s pair semi-finals. The New Zealand crew took top spot ahead of Denmark, before Spain surged late on to pip the Irish crew.

“For us it was more about focusing on our strategy and executing that to the best of our ability. Again, the start didn’t go as well as we hoped for but the rest of the race we were quite pleased with,” said Dukarska, confident the pair can produce a more complete performance on Sunday.

Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne know they will too. After Friday’s poor showing in the heats, they managed to claim third in their repechage and with that book a place in the men’s doubles semi-final, only they still appear to be struggling to find their rhythm.

Here, Lithuania surged late to take the win, Doyle and Byrne finishing in third spot behind Germany and Lithuania. “We were struggling a small bit again today, similar to yesterday,” admitted Byrne. “We’re just searching for something to click, we’re not quite sure what it is. We’re searching for that tomorrow which is obviously going to be the hardest of the rounds so far.”

Doyle realised too it’s make-or-break time: “There are any number of reasons why – heat, conditions, salt water and all that but everyone is in the same boat, well not the same boat but the same conditions. We’re fairly confident that if we can find that click tomorrow the boat will take off and hopefully we’ll be able to do what we know we’re capable of because at the moment we definitely feel we’re underperforming and not living up to where we want to be and what we expect from ourselves and expect from everyone else in the team. Because obviously Sanita and the lightweight team set such a precedent and we’re trying to live up to that and show we’re at that level as well which we know we can be if we can get the magic back in the boat.”

Also coming through the Tokyo morning with impressive class and ease at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre was Rhys McClenaghan, who underlined his status as one of the gold medal favourites with an excellent score of 15.266 in his qualifying group.

Rhys McClenaghan on the Pommel Horse. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Rhys McClenaghan on the Pommel Horse. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

This left the 22 year-old well clear of his next best rival in that qualifying group, the Russian-born New Zealand gymnast Mikhail Koudinov taking second in that group with a score of 12.466. Interestingly, in 2018 McClenaghan won European gold with a score of 15.300, and in 2019 he won World bronze with 15.400.

“To say now that I’m officially an Olympian is a dream come true,” he said. “We were prepared as we could be, and I think there’s a lot more there for finals, so we’ll just keep relying the preparation so far. I’ve set the standard for the day anyway.”

Elsewhere, boxing began its Olympic schedule with good news from Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena, where Kurt Walker came through his preliminary round of 32 in the men’s featherweight competition.

Walker won on a unanimous decision against Spain’s Jose Quiles Brotons, all five judges siding with the Lisburn boxer and 2017 European champion.

Crisp and athletic from the beginning, Walker fought from a distance and even though the Spaniard, nicknamed ‘Crazy Horse’, came out more aggressively by eating up Walker’s lead in the second round, the 26-year-old Irishman held his composure and steadied himself nicely to win the third round.

“I thought I dominated the first and third,” said Walker afterwards. “The second he gave it his all but he had nothing left in the third. But he is very good and I had to dig deep it was a great first fight for me.

“Whenever he had a good second round the corners were telling me he has given his all, go out and go back to your boxing. I got a bit nervous. It was a wee bit different. I knew what I had from experience.”

But the last 12 months following the postponement of the 2020 Games until this summer has helped with the cultivation of Walker’s boxing overall. He believes he is better equipped to go further in the competition.

“I have started to mature a bit,” said Walker. “It helps what I am fighting for and I know she (my baby daughter Layla) is going to be proud of me when she is older.”

A clash of heads late in the third round and a cut appearing above Walker’s right eye came too late in the bout to cause any great anxiety as he moves forward to meet the top seed in the division on July 28th.

As has been the case with several of the Irish fighters the draw has not been kind and Walker faces another challenge against Uzbeki Mirzakhalilov Mirazizbek, a professional boxer with one win in the paid ranks and the amateur World Champion in 2019.

“He has two arms and two legs like myself, it doesn’t bother me,” said Walker. “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I have won a fight in the Olympics more than I thought I would do a year ago so I’m happy and I will keep going.”

In Taekwondo Dublin’s Jack Woolley became one of the early casualties when he lost a close match to Argentinean 11th seed Lucas Guzman 22-19 in the 57kg division.

Jack Woolley leaves the arena after being beaten by Lucas Guzman. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Jack Woolley leaves the arena after being beaten by Lucas Guzman. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Guzman earned the winning score in the last three seconds of the bout adding to Woolley’s dismay in a contest he would have been expected to win.

The Tallaght 22-year-old, who was seeded at six in the competition, still has an avenue to move forward in the repechage, where the best outcome is a bronze medal.

Any athlete who loses to a finalist in the single elimination competition enters the repechage. If Guzman makes it to the final, then Woolley goes into the repechage.

But a stunned Woolley left the arena disconsolate with the surprising reversal in his and Ireland’s first ever taekwondo outing in an Olympic Games.

“I’m very disappointed, everything was good in the lead up, in our prep. I felt physically great going in,” said Woolley. 

“I walked in today and something just didn’t click, it just wasn’t my day. I have to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best this evening. Sport is unpredictable. I hope everyone else he fights has a similar performance to me, but we have to see – he has to get to the final first.”


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What changes about life in Italy in October 2021?

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Some of these changes are confirmed, others still speculative, but each of the following may have an impact on your life in Italy soon. 

Here’s what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Oct 1st: Electricity and gas prices rise

The Italian government has stepped in to limit a steep rise in energy prices in the next quarter, after a 40 percent increase was predicted.

While this means bills won’t rise quite so sharply for Italian businesses and families, energy costs are still set to rise.

Electricity prices are expected to increase by up to 20 percent for those who do not fall into the lowest income brackets, according to Italian media reports, while a smaller rise is expected for gas bills.

READ ALSO: Italy to spend €3bn on keeping household energy bills down as prices soar across Europe

The precise figures won’t be known until the tariff for the upcoming quarter is published by Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera, by the end of September.

The government’s measures will keep additional costs at zero for those least well-off, including households with an income under 8,265 euros, families with at least 4 dependent children with an income of less than 20,000 euros, those who receive a state pension or unemployment benefit, and people who are seriously ill, Sky TG24 reports.

The government funds will also cut the ‘general charge’ from gas bills for all throughout the last quarter of 2021, and on electricity for families and some small businesses.

Oct 1st: Italy-UK travel rule changes

People planning to travel to the UK from Italy or elsewhere in Europe from this month should note some changes to the entry rules.

From October 1st, due to a Brexit-related rule change the vast majority of EU citizens can no longer travel into the UK using an ID card; only passports are acceptable. Full details HERE.

As for Covid-related restrictions, vaccinated travellers from Europe will no longer have to take pre-departure tests when heading to England from Monday, October 4th.

Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

New Covid restrictions – and a vaccine mandate?

In the coming days, the Italian government is expected to release details of its next decree updating Covid-related rules and restrictions within the country. 

Travel rules will not be included in this update – the next review of restrictions on most non-EU countries will come on October 25th (see below).

It looks likely that the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas and theatres will increase after the government’s scientific advisory panel gave the all-clear to plans on Wednesday,

Stadiums will be able to sell tickets up to 75% of their full capacity, compared to 50% at the moment, while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to go up to 80%, according to news agency Ansa.

There will be no capacity restrictions for museums, although they will be obliged to make sure social distancing is respected.

All venues will only be allowed to admit customers with the green pass.

The Italian government is also considering whether to make vaccinations mandatory for more groups if it decides the rate of vaccination in the country is too low, and says it will make a decision by the beginning of October.

Vaccination coverage is one of the key factors the health ministry will take into account when deciding on any upcoming changes to the coronavirus restrictions.

Italy is tantalisingly close to reaching the government’s stated target of having 80 percent of the population fully immunised by September 30th – with some regions doing better than others.

Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Oct 15th: Green pass requirement at all workplaces

This is the most important change to be aware of this month if you work in Italy.

From October 15th, the next extension of Italy’s green pass scheme will require all employees across the public and private sectors to show that they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test uding the country’s green pass health certificate.

Unvaccinated workers without medical exemptions will need to take regular tests at their own expense unless their workplace decides to provide them for free.

Employees who fail to produce a pass face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries can be frozen from the first day that they arrive at work without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.

Find more details about how the rules will work in practice here.

Oct 15th. Some people are allowed to switch their heating on

You read that right. Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, starting from mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the balmier coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on December 1st. Find out when you can turn your heating on here.

Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP

Oct 15th: New national airline ITA takes off

This is also the date that Italy’s new flag carrier ITA, replacing long-struggling Alitalia, will begin operating and selling tickets.

Alitalia will cease operating on October 14th and the company has confirmed that customers with bookings after that date can rebook or get a refund.

Oct 25th: Italy to review rules on travel from the US and Canada

Towards the end of the month, we’ll be keeping an eye on possible changes to the Covid-related rules on travel from ‘D-list’ countries including the US and Canada, with Italy’s current set of rules for arrivals from these countries in force until October 25th.

Oct 31st: Don’t forget to change your clocks

At 3am on Sunday, October 31st, the clocks will go back by one hour marking the end of summer time.



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IRFU must shoulder some blame for state of women’s rugby in Ireland

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Watching the distressed female Irish players trying to console each other after Saturday’s heartbreaking, last-ditch defeat by Scotland in Parma which wrenched World Cup qualification aspirations from their grasp made for a very uncomfortable, almost invasive, watch. It was a relief when the RTÉ cameras panned back to the studio.

Watching Sene Naoupu embracing a tearful Ciara Griffin, it’s a wonder that Naoupu had kept her own emotions under control. Representing Ireland at a World Cup in her native New Zealand would have been such a fitting finale to her stellar career.

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Q&A: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?

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For many Spaniards, landing a stable, paper-pushing civil servant position is the dream.

They know it’s not going to be exciting or to make them rich but they see funcionario work as ‘a job for life’ in a country where the unemployment level is notoriously high and much of the job market is based on temporary summer positions in tourism.

They also like the fact that civil servant jobs pay a decent salary compared with the national average and often work fewer hours too.

Funcionario positions in Public Administration, Social Security and Defense were paid an average of €29,580 gross per year in 2020.

This is higher than the national average gross salary of €24,395 per year, according to stats released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), although that’s not to say some civil servants get paid considerably less than the above mentioned salary.  

So, if jobs in the civil service are so popular then how can you get one as a foreigner?

Can foreigners in Spain get civil service jobs?

The main answer is yes, you can get a job in the civil service in Spain as a foreigner, however, there are a few requirements.

Those eligible for civil servant jobs in Spain include EU nationals and those who are married to Spanish or EU nationals. You must currently be married and not divorced.

Children of EU nationals who are eligible to work in Spain (over 16 years old) and who are under 21 can also apply, as can those who are over 21 but who are financially dependent on their parents.

Third-country nationals with work and residence permits in Spain may also apply for civil service jobs.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?

Does this apply to all jobs in the civil service?  

No, the only jobs that foreigners can’t apply for and that you must have Spanish nationality for are those which “directly or indirectly imply participation in the exercise of public power or in the safeguarding of the general interests of the State and Public Administrations” according to the Spanish government.

What qualifications do I need?  

While some civil service jobs in Spain require a university degree, there are several that don’t.

Whatever types of qualifications you have, however, will have to go through the homologación (recognition) process so that it’s validated and accepted in Spain. Keep in mind that this can take months, and for non-EU qualification holders even longer.

You may also be required to show other proof and certificates.

According to the Spanish government: “This requirement will not apply to applicants who have obtained recognition of their professional qualification in the field of regulated professions, under the provisions of Community law”.

It also goes without saying that you will need a high level of Spanish to get a job as a civil servant and you may need certificates to prove this too. If you’re trying to get a job in Catalonia for example, you may also be required to know Catalan, as well as Spanish. 

What are oposiciones?

Oposiciones are the entrance exams you’ll need to sit to become a civil servant in Spain. Each type of position will have its own requirements, some easier and some harder, which involve a series of exams to test your abilities and suitability.

Some positions may require practical exams, while others such as for the police force will require a physical test. 

READ ALSO – Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish

Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Is there anything that will prevent me from getting a civil servant job in Spain?

Yes, foreigners should not have received disciplinary action or been fired from similar roles in public service in their own countries.

Also, those who are applying for jobs where they will be in contact with children may have to show a police check from their home country to prove that their record is clean.

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

What are the advantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • A decent salary
  • You have the right to take holiday days in addition to personal days off
  • Your social security is automatically deducted, giving you healthcare and pension rights
  • It’s a stable job that you are less likely to be made redundant from
  • You have the possibility of transferring to different departments

READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

What are the disadvantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • It’s a big investment in time and effort to get a job as a civil servant
  • The need for qualifications, extra tests, and exams
  • The extensive number of requirements and paperwork that needs to be filled out
  • Complicated systems as well as old-fashioned and bureaucratic work models
  • Monotonous work, where you’re unlikely to face new challenges
  • Little to no opportunities for remote employment



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