• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Bad break and regatta revelation led Murray all the way back to start line

THE challenge facing the home crew in today's university boat race on the Clyde could hardly be more formidable but among them is a man who has already overcome considerable odds simply to be there.

Paddy Murray, who suffered a badly broken collarbone while cycling, lines up for Glasgow University in today's boat race after falling back in love with rowing on the banks of Henley.Picture: Magdalena Zdrojewska

Edinburgh go into what is the third-oldest boat race in the world - only the Oxbridge and Yale-Harvard contests predate it - as the heaviest of favourites both physically and metaphorically, having dominated the recent Scottish Universities Championships.

However, the Glasgow crew know that, if they can show the sort of resolve that Paddy Murray, the 21-year-old who is seated at No.6 in their boat, has demonstrated just to take part, they will have a chance of creating a major upset.

Murray has taken part in the race before, as a first-year student three years ago when Glasgow were extending their run of successive victories to 12. He had been set to take part the following year as that sequence was extended to 13 successes, when disaster struck.

Seeking a new challenge he and a couple of fellow rowers were practising for the British Universities cycling championship at the Manchester velodrome when one of the others came off his bike.

"He fell off above me and slid down and managed to knock my bike from under me so I fell a long way down the track straight on my collar-bone. Nine pins, seven screws and a plate later . . . " Murray's voice trails off.

An attempt to return to the sport with that metalwork still holding him together at the start of his third year did not last long and he was so resigned to his competitive rowing days being over that he made a trip he had promised himself he never would, to rowing's Mecca.

"I got the plate taken out last May and then didn't train, didn't do anything, but went to Henley last year to watch. I had promised myself I wouldn't ever go down there to watch . . . I would go down to race first, but I decided I was never going to race there so there was no point in that," Murray said.

"However, I went down and just fell back in love with the sport. I just felt that I needed to race there so I needed to get back in training. The whole week was brilliant."

Eight weeks of hard work before returning to university got him into shape and, with Andy Barton, a 2011 boat race crew-mate, having been appointed Glasgow University's director of rowing, the more professionalised schedule took effect. Six weeks later, his ergonomics scores indicated he was going quicker than ever.

"That was a bit of a surprise. I thought my first year at uni would be the fastest I would ever go, when I got Scotland lightweight pair, I medalled at BUCS, I won the boat race, I won every Scottish Uni sweep event and had a stunning season, so I never really expected to top that," said Murray.

Others, he says, have had similar experiences in terms of finding huge improvements under Barton's guidance, but Edinburgh, too, have introduced full-time coaching to their rowing programme in the past year and have other advantages.

"The Edinburgh eight has two lightweights in it but both of them trialled for GB this year and one's been to the under-23 Worlds. Our eight is completely lightweight apart from one guy and very inexperienced as well," Murray said. "They are big favourites. Weight is important and their ergometer scores on average are 15 seconds quicker than ours so that makes a difference."

Yet, from his own experience three years ago, when Glasgow were similarly strong favourites, he knows there are no guarantees.

"The boat race is a really strange event," he said. "It's a 2.6km course, but it doesn't really matter because if someone takes a length it's over. I've never seen a crew come back from over a length down because the crew in front will just move across slightly and you get their rough water and you don't row quite as well. Edinburgh gave us a big fright in 2011 and took half-a-length lead. It took us half the race to win it." Sound technique and pace off the start line could just make the difference, then. "We're going to give them a fright," Murray says. "The Edinburgh boat's not the most experienced. There are definite flaws in it. If they get put under pressure you never know what will happen.

"If they row as we did the year we were faster and start panicking and there's a lot of weight going and they're not all doing the same thing, then anything's possible. Edinburgh won everything at the Scottish Unis but at Strathclyde it's whoever rows the quickest wins . . . [in] the boat race it's whoever gets in front wins.

"There's definitely more pressure on Edinburgh. They want to put down a marker. They should be quicker than us . . . they know that they're quicker than us. They know the erg scores everyone's produced, they know they're bigger, they've got more weight, they've potentially got better rowers, so if I was Edinburgh I would be really nervous."

Scheduled to start at 12.50pm, the race will be the last of six men's and women's races over a new route that was introduced last year to make it more visible to spectators.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

235683