Sam McKeown considered walking away from rowing last year - now he is weeks away from representing Ireland at the under 23s’ World Championships.
The Portadown Boat Club ace will compete in Bulgaria from July 22-26 as part of a double alongside Dublin-based Andrew Griffin.
His selection marks a superb reward for a successful international trial process that started in September 2014 - just months after missing out on a first World finals.
“Missing out on last year’s World Championships was a big downer and I had a hard time pulling it all back together,” said McKeown. “But I am glad I did and it is very exciting now working for Bulgaria after so many tense months trying to secure a place in the final squad.
“However, I have now spent a lot of time with Andrew and that can only help us when it comes to the World doubles.
“A strong double works best when both work together and find the right rhythm, so I am sure getting to know Andrew so well during this year will help us stay relaxed when it counts.
“The doubles field is expected to be very strong in Bulgaria, with around 30 competing in last year’s World Championships.
“I knew as soon as I started to row that it was the sport for me.
“I’m now completely focused on the final few weeks of training ahead of the World Championships and I want to come home with a medal.”
McKeown’s pace on the water is matched only by his rapid rise in the sport, having joined Portadown in 2012.
His progress from club prospect to national recognition has resulted in a string of medals - including Irish gold and Commonwealth Championships regatta bronze.
“For me, Portadown is the best club in the world,” said McKeown. “Everyone has been so supportive from day one and that coaching helped me set the foundations for everything else.
“I’d really like to place on record my huge debt to everyone involved in Portadown, especially Ronald Walker who has coached me for the past three years.
“The guidance from staff at the National Rowing Centre in Cork has also been invaluable.”