Ryan Ballantine admits that his first taste of the senior World Rowing Championships has left him hungry for more.

Enniskillen man Ryan was part of the Ireland Lightweight quad crew that secured a superb fifth spot in Bulgaria on Friday, an exceptional result especially when it is taken into consideration that this was the young crew’s first time rowing at senior level for Ireland.

And to have been competing against the very best in the world for the first time is an experience that Ryan won’t forget.

“It was a great experience. It was unbelievable to actually race against the world’s best. I was like a big child, you see all these Olympic champions and it’s amazing. I didn’t want it to end.

“Even in our races there was Rio Olympians, London Olympians, you were against World Champions and they were all class acts so to be racing against those guys and to be up there with them was just unbelievable,” he said.

The Quad finished fourth in their heat before coming through the repechage to book their place in the final. And Ryan states that every race was a learning process for them.

“The racing itself is on another level. Club rowing in Ireland and England was lower than the U23s and the step up from U23s to seniors was absolutely massive. You were coming up against boys who had multiple world championships and multiple Olympics under their names and they knew how to race whereas every race we competed in we were learning. We had never rowed at this level before and there was no holding back, you just went as hard as you could. We just left everything out there. We are a young crew who were training together for about a month whereas the rest of the crews had been training through the winter together and they knew how to row with each other. We were learning every day but we were getting better every day. It leaves us optimistic for the future and we have plenty more world championships to come hopefully,” he added.

And he felt that their improvement was clear to see at the championships.

“We came third in our heat and we weren’t happy with that but we were racing against the Italians and they had been winning by a country mile all season. The Czech Republic came second in the heat, they were European silver medallists about a month ago, but we went on to beat them in the final and that shows that we learnt from every race. We tried to hold on to the leaders but they were just too quick and powerful.”

Ryan though can’t wait for the opportunity to compete at this level again.

“Once you get to that level, you want more and you are hungry for more. It leaves me wanting to do even better in the future and step up to that higher level and maybe medal at the world championships. You want to push other crews and get to that standard that they are at at the minute.

“I suppose a good example for us is the O’Donovan brothers who won the World Championships. We are not too far off them so we have to push to strive to be like them.”

It’s back to university in Newcastle, England for Ryan for now for his final year but he has goals he also wants to meet in the water.

“I suppose we are all looking towards the Olympics, that’s the ultimate goal in whatever boat you can get in but the short term goals are to just keep pushing on,” he added.