The little West Cork Town of Skibbereen came to a halt at 2.30 this afternoon as two local lads Paul & Gary O’Donovan competed in the finals of the LWT Men’s Double Sculls.
Under seven minutes later the town erupted in unbridled joy as the two local lads from Skibbereen Rowing Club won Ireland’s first ever Olympic Rowing medals as they took Silver. They were celebrating Paul and Gary’s brilliant silver medal-winning performance in Rio at the Corner Bar in Skibbereen this afternoon. However the real centre of the celebrations was in the fine Skibbereen Credit Union which suspended transactions and had a big screen set up for townsfolk to watch the medal winning action. They included sitting in front pupils from Lisheen National school which the lads attended. The choppy, windy conditions in Rio echoed those of the River Ilen in Skibbereen where the O’Donovan brothers trained and many of their supporters wore jackets with one of the brothers memorable quotes “We’re well used to a bit of wind.”
The O’Donovan brothers won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics in an incredible Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls. And understandably, the two of them were absolutely elated while being totally wrecked – in Gary’s case to the precipice of vomiting mid-interview.
As always, their quotes to RTÉ were priceless, but this one was a bit more special as Gary explained how he couldn’t wait to get home and put his Olympic medal around the brothers’ coach, Dominic Casey, and the victorious French team interrupted the interview to congratulate the lads for one hell of a race.
The highlight, however, was surely this hum-dinger from Paul:
“We’re going to go home now because Mick Conlan said he’d box the heads off us if we didn’t win gold!”
Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan won the first Irish rowing medal at the Olympic Games today. The Ireland lightweight double took silver behind France in a thrilling finish in Rio de Janeiro.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 12, 2016
France were the top crew at the 1,000 metres and 1500 metres, but they took gold only after a three-boat charge to the line. The O’Donovans, from UCD and Skibbereen rowing clubs gave the French the severest test, but the Irish had to hold off Norway who finished third. Just .7 of a second covered the three crews. The O’Donovans had said all season that their aim was to win gold in Rio de Janeiro, and they competed as if they meant it. They did not make their usual slow start and were in the hunt all through. On a wet morning at the Lagoa, the Cork brothers shone with a fine performance that brought with it a deserved podium spot.
The O’Donovans produced the race of their life, with another strong finish seeing them come from fifth at the halfway mark to win silver in six minutes 31.23 seconds.
The party continues in Skibbereen tonight with normal business seemingly suspended except in the bars and in the West Cork Hotel where I’ll be raising a tankard of Rebel Red to the lads. Paul & Gary O’Donovan two fine Olympians from the little Olympic Town of Skibbereen. There were amazing scenes of pure joy in the Credit Union today as Gary and Paul crossed the line to claim silver in the Olympics in Rio, the first ever Olympic medals for Irish rowers, two great men and along with their coach Dominic Casey deserve all the success. A great boost for Skibb Rowing Club and rowing in general.
The name “Skibbereen” (sometimes shortened to “Skibb”) means “little boat harbour.” The River Ilen runs through the town and it reaches the sea about 12 kilometres away, at the seaside village of Baltimore. The name seems particularly apt tonight as West Cork’s Olympic Town glows with pride at the achievement of its sons. There won’t be a cow milked in Skibbereen tonight!