Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy impressed when taking the gold medal in the lightweight men's double sculls at the European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy.

The duo came home in a time of six minutes 18.14, ahead of Germany and Italy. 

It was in the last 500m where the world champions exerted their authority, reeling in Germany's Jonathan Rommelmann and Jason Osborne. 

Speaking afterwards to RTÉ Sport, O'Donovan said his absence from competition last year was not a drawback ahead of this week's competition.

"It's good to be back international racing for sure. We were well prepared after doing a lot of racing at home so I don't think I was suffering from not racing last year."

Looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, O'Donovan added that European success will give "some bit of confidence" but was at pains to stress that anything could happen "any sort of disaster", he quipped with a training camp and a World Cup regatta to come.  

McCarthy did not take last year off and won a bronze at last year's Europeans. "We really felt good at the way the boat was going in the last few weeks," was how he summed things up afterwards.

"We had three weeks of solid training together so it was really nice to set down a marker. We are a bit closer to the pack after the first 500 than was the case yesterday. Some of the other crews may have anticipated our good middle 1000, so maybe they saved a bit.  We came through in that third 500 like we planned."   

Ireland also took home a medal in the final of the women's four. 

The crew of Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh were battling with the British team throughout as the Dutch stayed out ahead.

But as the trio approached the line the Irish crew came agonisingly close to taking the win, losing out in the end by just four tenths of a second in a time of 6:27.96.  

Gary O'Donovan had to make do with fourth spot in the final of the lightweight men's single sculls.

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Trailing last for much of the race, the Skibbereen competitor came with a late charge, but could not dislodge Poland's Artur Mikolajczewski from third spot.  

He said: "I would have liked to have been in the medals. It would have been nice to win. I had an alright race. It wasn't my best race ever.

"But it was a step in the right direction compared to my previous international race in the singles. I'm much closer to the top guys now that I was before."

The race was won by Peter Galambos from Hungary in a time of 7:01.52, with O'Donovan clocking 7:05.82.

In the final of the lightweight women's single sculls, Lydia Heaphy finished sixth in a time of 7:58.70.

The women's pair final saw a strong start from Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley, who sat in third spot for the first half of the race. A strong pace injected thereafter saw them drift back, with Great Britain's Helen Glover and Polly Swann just holding off Romania to take gold in a time of 7:02.73.  

Dukarska and Crowley were placed sixth, clocking 7:11.83.

There was a fifth-place finish for Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen in the lightweight double sculls. Italy were the winners in 6:58.66, with Casey and Cremen coming home in 7:07.42. 

Earlier, the pair of Ronan Byrne and Phil Doyle won the double sculls B final, while Daire Lynch finished second in the men's single scull C final.