My Liffey: ‘It just ticked a lot of boxes’ - Dublin rowers find ‘community’ on river at Islandbridge

Rowing was a way of getting outside ‘comfort zone’, says Bríd Leahy, after she spotted boats on the Liffey while training for a marathon in the Phoenix Park

Bríd Leahy became involved in rowing through what she describes as a “quirk of location”: she was training for a marathon running through the Phoenix Park and saw rowers on the river.

“I just thought it looked nice. So I had a look and saw that the Commercial Rowing Club, the one I’m captain of now, had a two-week summer camp. I decided to sign up,” she says.

That was July and Leahy joined a novice group that trained for a championship the following June.

The summer is when more people get involved. But even in the dead of winter when it was freezing cold, she continued to enjoy her new hobby: “I was hooked. I love it. It just ticked a lot of boxes.”


The timing was “unfortunate”, she says: just months after joining, training was halted for four months in February 2020 and the national championships called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As soon as the team could return, they did, winning the 2021 club championship in the novice division.

Being able to foster this newfound love was, in part, due to the location of the river Liffey.

“To have that opportunity in the city centre; it is so accessible. People can cycle to it, or get the bus. And the stretch that we are on is quite sheltered so, touch wood, it is more likely than not that we are able to get out on the water” she says.

The location allows her to get to know the river but also guarantees “a relatively safe and controlled environment” to learn, she says. There is an added benefit of being close to nature.

“You see a bird’s nest and see they have added more branches or laid eggs,” she says.

Rowing for a club can be a big commitment, with some people training up to 14 sessions a week.

It is only four years since Leahy started rowing. Becoming captain of Commercial Rowing Club at Islandbridge, alongside the Phoenix Park, in a short space of time was “100 per cent” unexpected.

Commercial, the second oldest rowing club in the country, dates back to 1856 with the name originating in a period when all non-university rowing clubs were designated “commercial”.

Leahy enjoys the sense of community at the club most, she says, adding that a rowing club could not function without volunteers, coaches, launch drivers and trailer drivers, among others.

“I was on board for trying something new. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and be bad at something for a while and then get better at it,” she says.

“But I just never left.”