Skibbegreen, white and gold: West Cork town buzzing after Fintan and Paul land Olympic gold

Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy are the pride of the nation after gold medal win at Tokyo Olympics Games
Skibbegreen, white and gold: West Cork town buzzing after Fintan and Paul land Olympic gold

Olympic champions: Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate with their gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Few members of Skibbereen Rowing Club in Cork have managed to get much sleep in the last 24 hours and plans are afoot for a homecoming of Skibbereen's Olympic heroes this weekend.

In a small polytunnel usually reserved for winter training, a small crowd of around 20 people gathered to watch local rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls in Tokyo.

The pair delivered Ireland’s first ever Olympics gold in rowing – and rowing club members have been fielding calls and congratulations from the moment the two men crossed the finish line.

Champions: Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan with their gold medals. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Champions: Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan with their gold medals. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“The buzz around Skibbereen is amazing,” said Skibbereen Rowing Club secretary TJ Ryan. “The town is alive.” 

The impending race had been the talk of the town over the last 24 hours and the club had set up a small pop-up shop selling club and Olympics merchandise. 

It had ran out of stock twice by the time O’Donovan and McCarthy took to the water.

Mr Ryan said the race itself was “amazing” – even if the German pair came close to causing an upset.

“They probably ran the race of their lives,” he said of the German team. “They came back at us.” 

The club is becoming familiar with Olympics success.

In 2016, O’Donovan and his brother Gary won silver at the Rio Games – a victory that prompted huge celebrations in Skibbereen.

“Everybody is right behind it,” Mr Ryan said. 

“For a small club, we have a gold, silver and a bronze.” 

Attention is now turning to how locals can safely celebrate when the pair, and fellow Olympic medal winner Emily Hegarty, return from Japan.

“Restrictions are going to cause an awful lot of problems with what we can do, so it’ll be play it by ear,” Mr Ryan said.

The club does not intend to become complacent about future Olympic success.

Mr Ryan said: “We’re already in plans for future expansions to keep the show on the road”.

He added that he thinks the current crop of rowers coming through the club’s ranks mean there can be more success in the years ahead.

As for the chances of the latest medal haul attracting new members, Mr Ryan is optimistic: “Hopefully it will bring a few more in.” 

Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning gold. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning gold. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Skibbereen Rowing Club president Nuala Lupton was on her way to the manage the town’s merchandise stall on Thursday morning and was expecting a busy few hours.

“It was difficult to wake up after a few hours’ sleep,” she said. 

“I don’t think my heart has restarted yet. I think it stopped last night.” 

Ms Lupton has been involved with the club for the last 50 years and has seen scores of young rowers come through and achieve success.

She is confident the club can reach even greater heights in the decades to come.

“I think because we’re all very down to earth. We work very hard,” she said. “We have always had a great work ethic in Skib and, of course, we also have (coach) Dominic Casey.

“I think rowing builds a certain type of character. You have to be a certain type of character to stick to the routine.” 

EARLIER: Skibbereen's Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy are Olympic gold medallists.

The County Cork town and all of Ireland is buzzing this morning after the two rowers won gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Paul and Fintan showed their dominance and powered to glory across the course, showing consistency throughout but taking control of the race in the closing 500m to win by a length.

A strong German crew led from the start, following by the Italians, with Ireland in third, and it remained that way through the first 500m and across the second 500m. But the strength of Ireland saw them overtake Italy and attack the German crew across the third 500m of the race, before pulling in front shortly after and never looking back.

In the closing stages they showed their dominance after taking the lead and powered across the line.

Cue the celebrations.

And they'll be joined by Skibbereen's Emily Hegarty, who won Olympic bronze as part of the women's four yesterday.

Bonfires were lit in the hills in celebrations all the way down to West Cork, and again they will be lit when our rowing heroes make their triumphant return home.

Gold medallists and Olympic champions... they have made history for Ireland.

Ireland's Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan, gold, on the podium for the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls at Sea Forest WaterwayPicture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Ireland's Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan, gold, on the podium for the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls at Sea Forest WaterwayPicture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Saying it felt pretty good to win Olympic gold, they stood proudly on the podium as the Irish national anthem echoed out over Tokyo Bay.

The lightweight men’s double of Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan became Olympic Champions by winning the final with a time of 6:06.43 today. 

In a thrilling race the Skibbereen crew were sitting in second place for much of the race, with Germany going out fast and dominating the first half of the race. A push from the Irish double with 700m to go left no doubt about their class, when they edged their boat to the front, and took the win by 0.86 of a second on the line. 

Speaking after the race, O’Donovan said: “The Germans and Italians always have a quick start, so for the first time we had a quick start as well, not for lack of effort. It was a bit of a surprise that it paid off and we weren’t totally dropped in the first 500m, so that was good. And then we put the heads down and ploughed on so it was good.” 

McCarthy added: “It feels pretty good. We can’t complain! We had a really good race – but a tough one. The Germans were flying so it was hard. I was really excited when we first crossed the line and there was a bit of relief as well. We have had a good time all week, so we are a bit sad that it is all over. We hadn’t had too much time to think about it but it feels pretty good and hopefully it will be that way for a while.” 

And RTÉ had a camera and microphone in place inside McCarthy’s Skibbereen home to capture the historic moment.

Fintan McCarthy’s mother Sue and father Tom said it "has been amazing watching them" and they were "proud of both of them".

“My God, words can’t explain it, I am beyond proud of both of them, it has been amazing watching them,” Sue McCarthy told reporter Ger McCarthy.

“We are absolutely elated and delighted for them. I am over the moon, overwhelmed really. They deserve every iota of it, " added Tom McCarthy.  

Fintan’s twin brother Jake, also a rower, and sister Kate also watched on and were delighted at brother Fintan’s success.

In the Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls, the Irish crew performed outstandingly to finish second in their B Final with a time of 6:49.90, resulting in an eighth overall final standing, pushing winners of the B Final, Switzerland to the line, crossing the line just 0.74 seconds after them. Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in May, and throughout the Olympic Regatta have produced top class performances, which bodes well for the Paris Olympic cycle. 

The Women’s Pair of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley finished fifth in their B Final with 7:02.22, in what was an extremely competitive field, resulting in an 11th place finish overall. They started strong, putting themselves right in the mix, in a grueling battle with Romania and USA which ensued for the remainder of the race.

The Killorglin Pair are part of the emerging strong squad of female rowers in Ireland from which the Olympic bronze medal winning crew was selected. 

In the final race of the day for the rowers, there was disappointment for Sanita Puspure in the semi-finals of the women’s single, where she finished fifth in her race, with only the top three progressing to the A final where the medals are contested.

It was a night to remember, and for little sleep, in Skibbereen, in Cork, and across the country.

Paul O'Donovan, left, and Fintan McCarthy of Ireland celebrate after winning the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls final and Olympic gold at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. 	Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Paul O'Donovan, left, and Fintan McCarthy of Ireland celebrate after winning the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls final and Olympic gold at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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