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Conor Keogh

Club OUBC

Year of Birth 1993

Hometown Dublin, Ireland

Nationality Irish College Trinity

College Undergrad/Graduate PhD

Year 2nd

What are you studying? Neural interfacing

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? It’s rewarding to see the work that I do contribute to the development of potential treatment for restoring function in patients with significant nervous system injuries.

Future ambitions? After completing my DPhil, I intend to return to surgical training. Longer term, I intend to continue working in academic neurosurgery, with a combined clinical and academic career focused on functional restoration.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I have always found them complementary. The rowing schedule provides a great deal of structure, and a very focused, goal-oriented means of spending time outside work. My academic productivity is often improved if I stick to a strict timetable and regularly take time away from the problems on which I am working. Rowing is excellent for doing that.

When did you start rowing, and why? I started rowing as a first year undergraduate student. I was rehabilitating following a reasonably serious football injury, and was keen to try a new sport with a strong focus on individual performance while also maintaining a strong team aspect. Rowing fit that niche well. Ultimately I realised that my physical size and general disposition were well suited for coxing. I gave it a try, and rapidly found myself winning a lot more often as a cox than as a rower.

What was your first club? Dublin University Boat Club.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Oxford? It’s very rewarding to be consistently surrounded by a group of people so motivated to perform at the absolute limits of their abilities. The uncompromising attitude, the willingness to do whatever is necessary to improve the squad, and the absolute focus on performance make it a great environment to train in.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I was involved with Dublin University Boat Club throughout my undergraduate degree in Ireland. I was fortunate enough to belong to a number of quite successful crews, and ultimately won an Irish national championship, some university championships and set a few course records along the way.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? If yes, when? No.

Your favourite race so far? While I’m tempted to say something about the boxed-in, side-by-side intensity of Henley, and while beating UCD on the Liffey holds a special place in the heart of any Trinity man, I have always been fond of a good ‘coxes’ race’. My first Erne Head, a brilliantly chaotic 7km time trial of hairpin bends, strong stream and erratic scullers, was what really convinced me that coxing was for me.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? I try not to deviate from what I have been training just because it is race day. Ultimately, you’re there to do a job; you apply what you’ve been practising in training and perform at the highest level possible.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? Tough sessions provide the physical stimulus needed to improve, and help to build the mental fortitude to get back to that dark place when the occasion calls for it. While the moment-to-moment reality of it isn’t necessarily much fun, it’s persisting through these sessions that will allow a greater level of performance when needed.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? I am, unfortunately, a deeply one-dimensional person. I much prefer to dedicate my time to the finer points of a single thing than to developing basic proficiencies in a variety of domains. I run quite regularly, which is if nothing else testament to the lack of creativity with which I allocate my time.

How do you motivate yourself and your team-mates, especially with Covid restrictions? The weight of history and of tradition provide an excellent motivator. Regardless of circumstance, everyone is motivated to push themselves and to really earn their place in the squad. Being a member of OUBC means something to the whole team, and whether our training is restricted or not, there is a drive to live up to the standard set by those who have come before us.


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