THE inclement weather conditions and lack of sleep didn’t make any difference in Skibbereen town today as the locals had a noticeable spring in their step following the heroics of local rowers Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan who won Olympic gold medals in the lightweight double sculls.
The Olympic champions who both hail from the parish of Aughadown, just outside Skibbereen captured Cork’s first gold medal at an Olympic event since 1932 following their sensational performance in Tokyo.
Skibbereen and its surrounding hinterland are visibly beaming with pride following the exploits of their latest Olympic heroes who have now joined Emily Hegarty in bringing Olympic medals home to West Cork.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club flags and the tricolours are flying throughout the streets of Dear Old Skibbereen, while posters of the seven local rowing club members who are part of Team Ireland adorn many households. Gates are painted, homemade posters wishing the athletes all the very best and bunting occupy every nook and corner of the picturesque market town.
Skibbereen Rowing club has also established a small pop-up shop selling club and Olympics merchandise which reported a very brisk trade today with people eager to snap up memorabilia from Ireland’s most successful rowing club.
The duo’s brilliant performance was replayed on a loop in the specially commissioned Olympic Square which attracted much attention from locals and tourists alike.
Paul’s father Teddy said he was a proud man watching the Olympic gold medalists cross the line in first place. “I was feeling confident before the race. When they crossed the line it was an unbelievable moment. It has taken them a lot of hard work to achieve their goal. I wasn’t really emotional watching the medal presentation as I take that in my stride. I am very proud. It is an amazing achievement. When they arrive home I will catch up with Paul.”
Teddy, who coached both his sons Paul and Gary during their formative years said he always knew Paul was destined for a great career from a young age.
Skibbereen Rowing Club president Nuala Lupton summed up the general mood amongst the euphoric rowing club members. “We are hoarse, tired and we have pains in the bones. We are so thrilled. Fintan and Paul were so laid back while we were the nervous ones. It was so special and emotional watching the medal presentation. They are so unassuming. They are special people. They are heroes. They have brought great joy and pride to the town.”
Aughadown parish priest Fr. Donal Cahill said it was ‘moving’ to watch them capture a gold medal. “It was a thriller of a race. It was moving to watch it. They are great ambassadors. They will inspire a new generation of rowers in the locality.”