A West Cork teenager with a prosthetic arm has defied the odds by competing in his first ever sculls race in the Men’s Junior 15 category at the Irish Rowing Championships.
Eoghan Barry, aged 15, from Lisheen, has been rowing with a prosthetic arm with Skibbereen Rowing Club since attending Lisheen national school.
He was born with his right arm stopping just beyond the elbow.
The teenager, who has a twin called Kate and a seven-year-old sister called Hannah, is a neighbour of world lightweight champion Shane O’Driscoll and lives not too far from the Olympic heroes, Gary and Paul O’Donovan. Eoghan loves rowing and with funding secured through the local Lions Club, his family are trying to source a prosthetic designed specifically for rowing.
Eoghan’s mother Ellen said: “We have searched Ireland, England and France trying to locate a person with a similar deficiency to Eoghan, but unfortunately we have been unsuccessful in doing so.
“Plenty of people with lower limb deficiencies compete in Paralympics but no one with an upper limb deficiency. We have moved our search to the USA and still working our way through it to just find one person that rows.
“We would hope they may be able to assist us with the design and function of a rowing prosthetic and let us know what has worked or not worked for them.”
A local Skibbereen man Tadhg Collins designed a piece that could attach to the end of the prosthetic with wrist movement and another local woman Margaux in Beara Belts made a harness that helps assist Eoghan with every stroke by distributing the weight to his good shoulder and keeping him aligned.
These advancements have done wonders for Eoghan’s ability to row, but there is much more that can be achieved and the teenager is determined to find out how far he can take his rowing career.
Ellen said: “We are hoping someone will pick up the paper and see this article and get in contact. They might have seen this before or have contacts or worked with prosthetics. They might know what works and what doesn’t work.”
Eoghan’s mother praised the local community spirit in Skibbereen praising his coaches Richie Keating and Mick Cotter, as well as Eoghan himself. “Eoghan is a teenager of few words, but he is very headstrong and independent. He likes to do things for himself. To Eoghan, there is no such word as ‘can’t’.”