It is well known that Skibbereen is the biggest small town not just in West Cork but in the whole wide world, and not just because it is the home of the famous Skibbereen Eagle!
Set on the River Illin in West Cork “Sweet Skibbereen” is a place tinged with tragedy and joy. It was one of the places worst hit by the Great Famine – An Gorta Mór, which devastated and changed Ireland forever. Where the O’Donovan brothers practiced for their Olympic success is overlooked by Abbeystrewery graveyard where 10,000 bodies of Famine victims lay unmarked in famine pits. One of the people who was orphaned by the Great Hunger was Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who came to work in his cousin’s shop in Skibbereen in 1847 and who was one of the founders in the town of “The Phoenix Literary Society” in reality a front for Nationalist agitation which morphed into the Fenian Brotherhood. After a life agitating for Irish independence he died in exile in New York in 1915 and his body was brought back to Ireland where it lay in state at Dublin City Hall for three days. After a huge funeral procession Patrick Pearse’s oration at O’Donovan Rossa’s graveside at Glasnevin cemetery is credited with stirring Nationalist passions which led to the 1916 rising eight months later. It ended with the words:
“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace. “
Truly the road to Irish independence began in this little town of Skibbereen.
We now live in happier more positive times and freedom and optimism is certainly embraced in West Cork as exemplified by the tale of the O’Donovan Brothers. Red Bull have recently released a number of short documentaries on modern day sports legends, and Paul and Gary O’Donovan are the stars of their latest. The documentary series, titled Way Of The Wildcard, releases a new short video every Wednesday, each one telling the story of unexpected athletes succeeding in the most unlikely circumstances.
In 2016, Paul and Gary O’Donovan became household personalities by winning silver Men’s lightweight double sculls at that year’s Olympic Games. In what is commonly regarded as sport for the elite, the O’Donovan Brothers’ story explains other routes into the world of rowing, as well as shedding light on one of the Europe’s most successful and unique rowing clubs you’ve never heard of.
Over just 13 minutes, we get a brilliantly unique look at how they became the superstars we know them to be today, and their truly inspiring story will have you punching the air with patriotic joy. As well as focusing on the brothers it gives an insight into the special part of the world which is West Cork, a small and special place which punches above its weight in so many ways. We even get to see the mammy, Trish O’Donovan who of course is frequently referred to by her sporting sons!
West Cork’s favourite brothers have shown again that they have a future in TV if they ever decide to hang up their oars but come and visit us and experience the creative madness which has made this wild and rugged area on the very edge of the Atlantic the foodie capital of Ireland and a haven for creative artists, musicians, techies and much more.
Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.