Northern Ireland rowers in Great Britain squad

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NI rowers chasing Olympic places after European Championship selection

Five Northern Ireland rowers have been named in the Great Britain squad for next month's European Championships.

London 2012 medalists Alan Campbell and brothers Richard and Peter Chambers are in the squad, which is an indication of who will be selected for the Olympics.

Enniskillen's Holly Nixon is also included and she has a real chance of claiming a place in her first Olympics.

Joel Cassells makes the squad but the Coleraine man is in the non-Olympic class lightweight pair.

Campbell looks set for his fourth and final Olympics and after winning the GB trial last month for the ninth time, he expressed a desire to be part of the quadruple sculls after a decade of representing Great Britain in the single sculls.

However, head coach Jurgen Grobler believes Campbell is best suited to remaining in the single.

Richard Chambers and Will Fletcher will race in the lightweight men's doubles in Germany
Richard Chambers and Will Fletcher will race in the lightweight men's doubles in Germany

So the 2012 bronze medalist can expect to battle it out again with the men who were ahead of him in London, Mahe Drysdale and Ondrej Synek, as well as a group of young and talented single scullers who have emerged during the current Olympic cycle.

It will be a tough task for Campbell, who will be 33-years-old in Rio, but if he's looking for a good omen the last two Olympic champions - Olaf Tufte and Drysdale - were both 33 when they won gold.

Richard Chambers has formed a formidable light men's doubles partnership with Englishman Will Fletcher and in their first season racing together they took silver in the World Championships.

A hand injury to Chambers has stalled their preparations for the European Championships in Germany but the duo will hope to be back to full strength by the time the second World Cup regatta comes around in Lucerne at the end of May.

The GB lightweight four had a disappointing 2015, only making the 'B' final at the World Championships, while Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour took gold in the non-Olympic class lightweight pair.

Scimgeour also won the trial ahead of Cassells, but despite that the duo have not been selected for the Olympic boat with Peter Chambers joined by Mark Aldred, Chris Bartley and Jono Clegg, the same quartet as last year.

It's certainly disappointing for Cassells, who also won the European title in the lightweight pair last year, and he will join forces with Scimgeour to defend that title in Germany.

Peter Chambers and Joel Cassells celebrate winning the European lightweight pair gold in 2015
Peter Chambers and Joel Cassells celebrate winning the European lightweight pair gold in 2015

The Rio dream for both men now depends on the four either performing badly or for injuries to occur.

Nixon, by contrast, is living the dream. The 22-year-old from Portora Boat Club will make her senior GB debut alongside Kristina Stiller, Jessica Leyden and Rosamund Bradbury in the women's quadruple sculls at the first World Cup in Varese later this month before they compete at the Europeans.

Then will come the real test as they must qualify the boat for Rio at the final qualifying regatta in Lucerne in May.

There are only two places available so it's a tough ask for a relatively inexperienced crew, but should they come through it then Rio beckons.

After the European Championships there are only two more chances to race in the World Cups in Lucerne and Poznan before the long build up to Rio, but once more rowing is likely to be a sport where Olympic medals could be returning to Northern Ireland.