Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have progressed to the A/B semi-final of the lightweight men's double sculls as the European Rowing Championships got under way in Varese, Italy, today.

The reigning world champions, of UCC and Skibberreen rowing clubs respectively, won Heat 3 in a time of 6:54.75, over six seconds ahead of Ukraine in second.

O'Donovan's brother Gary was among multiple Irish qualifiers for A finals on Sunday.

Rio 2016 silver medallist O'Donovan (Skibberreen RC) booked his place in the lightweight men's single sculls decider by finishing a second behind German heat winner Joachim Agne in a time of 7:07.23.

Lydia Heaphy of UCC Rowing Club won her lightweight women's single scull heat, edging out France's Claire Bove by 25 hundreths of a second in a time of 7:50.15.

(L-R): Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe and Aifric Keogh

The women's four of Emily Hegarty (UCC), Eimear Lamble (Old Collegians BC), Aifric Keogh (UCC) and Fiona Murtagh (NUIG) also won their heat, finishing almost eight seconds ahead of runners-up Russia.

Their time of 6:36.98 was a second and a half faster than that of the other heat winners, the Netherlands.

Monika Dukarska (Killorglin RC) and Aileen Crowley (Old Collegians BC) booked their place in the final by finishing second behind Romania in the women's pair heats.

Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen (both UCC) finished second in the lightweight women's double sculls heats and qualified for Saturday's semi-final.

World silver medallists Ronan Byrne (UCC) and Phil Doyle (Belfast BC) also finished second in the men's double sculls heats, just .72 of a second behind Russia. Only the winners progressed directly to tomorrow's semi-finals but the Irish duo sealed their place with another second in the repechage this afternoon.

Daire Lynch (Clonmel RC) was fifth in his men's single scull heat and fourth in the repechage so will race in the C/D semi-final tomorrow.