Acorn’s American dream

Enniskillen Royal Boat Club’s Acorn Cassidy, has been making huge strides in the sport of rowing and only last week the 17-year-old broke two Irish records at the Irish Indoor Championships in Limerick.

Acorn, who chooses to identify as non-binary, has now been scouted by Syracuse University in New York and will take up the scholarship later this year.

Acorn’s mother Sonja said the University has been “wooing” Acorn for months, having first spotted them back at the Junior 15 Indoor Rowing Championships three years ago.


Unbeknown to Acorn or the family, the scout has followed Acorn’s rowing career with interest and the first approach the scout made to Acorn and the family was late last summer/ early autumn, presenting the idea of a scholarship.

In early December, Acorn and their father, Simon, went out to Syracuse University on an all-expenses paid trip to see the facilities and get an insight into what college life in the States would be like for Acorn and they were really impressed by what it has to offer.

The New York university is one of the top private universities in Syracuse, with famous alumni like Joe Biden and Lou Reed, to name a couple.

In December, Acorn found out their fate, that they would be moving stateside later this year and financially it is huge for Acorn and the family. The college pay for everything involved – accommodation, tuition, the rowing, the training camps, full rowing kits, physio, medicals, dietician, sports nutrition and all the coaching it involves.

“You’re talking about $100,000 a year for four years, basically,” said Sonja.

“Acorn is going to go a do a four year degree and come out the far end with no debt.

“We’re obviously quite delighted because we have three other children coming behind Acorn! It’s a wee weight off our shoulders as well” she laughed.


Acorn said, receiving the news was very exciting and a massive help;

“The scholarship means that I pass all of the, having to get tuition loans and land myself in debt and having to worry about finances and stuff and I can actually just go and enjoy myself and follow the rowing properly, without worrying will I even be able to afford to do it.

“Before I had been worrying would I be able to continue rowing. I might only have a year or two years, or maybe something happens and I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it anymore,” said the 17 year-old.

The Enniskillen rower wants to study physics and they are currently studying four A-Levels; physics, maths and French at Mount Lourdes and further maths at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School.

Acorn follows in the footsteps of former Enniskillen Royal Boat Club rowers, Meabh Donnelly and Zoe McCutcheon who secured scholarships with Oregon State University and University of Southern California, respectively.

Sonja says Acorn has spoken to the girls about their experience and is now very excited about her opportunity.

“I’m very proud and very excited for them” said Sonja, “I would hope that Acorn will achieve all that their heart desires sporting-wise.

“I would see Acorn going to the Junior Worlds, the Senior Worlds and the Olympics would be a goal, and a potentially achievable goal.
“Academically, Acorn is as clever as they come.

“They want to do a degree and go on and do a Masters and a PhD or both.

“So given their work ethic and their training ethic, both are eminently achievable. We’re behind Acorn the whole way.”

On the national scene Acorn will trial for Rowing Ireland on the 10-14 February and hopes to go to the Junior Worlds in Canada in August.

With the club, they will hope to bring home some medals from the National Schools’ Regatta in May, followed by the Henley Royal Regatta in June and the Irish Championships after that.

It is another massive success story for the club and Sonja expressed her sincere gratitude to everyone at Enniskillen Royal Boat Club;

“They have given Acorn amazing support over the years. Derek Holland has been phenomenal as has his full team of coaches.

“They train everyone really, really hard and Acorn has thrown themselves into that heart and

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