SKIBBEREEN was the place to be on Sunday as thousands packed the streets to welcome home their medal-winning stars.
The west Cork town is getting used to its status as one of the centres of the rowing world and laid on a hero’s welcome for Shane O’Driscoll, Paul O’Donovan and Mark O'Donovan.
It is a week since the three won their gold medals at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida but the three champions took the scenic route home.
Olympic star Paul O’Donovan successfully defended his men’s lightweight single sculls crown at the tournament, while Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll claimed gold in the men’s lightweight pair.
The enthusiastic welcome was organised by a group of dedicated volunteers who prepared the town for the crowds that descended on Sunday evening.
“The Main Street was full, the whole community got behind it. It was a lovely evening to celebrate great achievements,” Skibbereen Rowing Club PRO Emily Dulohery said.
“A lot of work went into it, there was a good bit of effort behind it, there were volunteers, marshals, everyone chips in for evenings like this. The gardaí supported the closure of Main Street and the county council also supported us.”
The three rowers were still proudly sporting the moustaches that became a talking point during the Championships, and they seem to have started a trend. Rowing fans young and old were seen wearing fake ‘taches in support of their heroes.
Cork county Mayor Declan Hurley was on hand to congratulate the three medal-winners, who are only on a flying visit home before heading to the Head of Charles Regatta in Boston next week. St Fachtna’s Silver Band played in the heroes as they waved to a thronged Main St.
Shane O’Driscoll said they were old hands at greeting fans by the time they reached their hometown, having also met supporters along the way home.
“Everyone we meet is wishing us well,” he said. “We had a few in Dublin airport, Rosscarbery and Leap on the way down.”
But while they appreciated the support, when all comes to all there is no place like home.
“We’ve been away for a while,” Mark O’Donovan added. “Disneyland and Universal are good, but you can’t beat Skibbereen at the end of the day.”