Roads were jam packed into this small West Cork town as thousands turned out to welcome home the local heroes. After becoming legends thanks to their victory (and hilarious interviews) at the Olympics in Rio, the Paul and Gary O’Donovan are back in Ireland. The pair arrived home to Skibbereen earlier this evening. Skibbereen was a hive of excitement today as the heroes of the hour returned from their travels to greet their fans with shiny medals from the Olympics and World Rowing Championships. Paul and Gary O’Donovan had arrived in Cork Airport last night to a fine welcome from family, friends and fans. Today at a press conference in Skibbereen Rowing Club they met with the media, hungry for soundbites and one liners from the witty pair.
— Padraig O Donoghue (@PadraigSoHo) August 29, 2016
The Olympic medal winning brothers, and just over 20 other members of the Irish rowing team who competed at the world championships in Rotterdam where Paul struck gold, touched down at Cork Airport on board Aer Lingus flight EI845 from Amsterdam around 9.20pm – not the first time the brothers have been ahead of schedule.
Andy in the Fork’n Pie had ‘Pull Like A Dog’ specials in honour of the big day:
And fans were stationed on top of vans in O’Donovan brothers #pulllikeadog t-shirts, primed to get the perfect picture:
Then just after 7 tonight the pair arrived into Skibbereen on top of a double decker bus to screams and cheers from what appeared to be a sizeable amount of the town’s population and many more who had travelled into town for the festivities.
Amazing scenes in Skibbereen pic.twitter.com/mOMqh9dBri
— Kieran McCarthy (@KieranMcC_SS) August 29, 2016
Green, yellow and blue Brazil flags flew from windows in the town of Skibbereen in Co Cork and a brass band helped transform the narrow streets into an open air party zone thronged with an influx of visitors who greeted brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan. The Rio lightweight double sculls competitors claimed the country’s first Olympic honours in the sport amid predictions they could go on to dominate for years to come. They inched through packed streets on an open top double decker bus which said: “Home Are the Heroes.”
— Flor Mac Carthy (@florNEWS) August 29, 2016
Paul O’Donovan, 22, said: “It’s a complete shock. It’s all good for the sport and for the community down here. It was kind of a reflection of what it’s been like the last couple of years. That’s why we are so happy.” The pair are from Lisheen, near Skibbereen, in west Cork.
The pair learned their skills on the Ilen near Skibbereen under the tutelage of coach Dominic Casey and while Paul always harboured ambitions of an Olympic medal it was only four years ago that Gary made the decision to take it seriously. Their father Teddy said it was great to be in Rio to see his sons “creating history”. He said: “It is going very well. It was brilliant to be there and see them creating history. To see them to move on to Rotterdam… to see the storm that they are making internationally.”
Olympic rowing heroes Gary and Paul O’Donovan have paid tribute the rowing club that drove their Olympic dreams and said that more funding is not “the be all and end all.” The way I see it, everything we’ve done we are just trying to represent our club,” Gary said, “we’re not just fools around the place in front of cameras, we’re like this every day, we come in here and we pull with the youngsters and everything we have done at the Olympics and before that is just representing what we do in here every day. We try and make it fun for the youngsters who come in and hopefully we can get more people in, it’s such a great sport.” Paul said: “Like everyone in the world you need more money but you’ve just got to make the most of what money you have at the time and we’ve shown here with the facilities that we have, they’re not the best in the world but they do the job as we’ve shown.
— The Skibbereen Eagle (@theskibeagle) August 29, 2016
They paid tribute to Dominic Casey, the man overseeing their training regime, and all the other people who have helped them along the path. “It’s no more than the club deserves,” Gary said of the attention now being paid to the place which has driven their success. They will now return to their college studies and their father said normality would be forced on them.
As for me, getting into Skibbereen was the easy part, getting out of it tonight is going to be more difficult. It is going to be a long night’s partying – don’t be surprised if things are fairly quiet around Skibb tomorrow!