Skibbereen’s ability to produce rowers - and raconteurs - was in evidence on a glorious morning at the European Championships in the Czech Republic.
Five stars of the famed Cork club contested A finals on the Racice waters - returning a medal haul of two golds and three silvers.
Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan gave Ireland a dream start when leading home Russia and Italy in the lightweight pairs final (6:32.340) to claim their first European senior title.
That success was soon followed by clubmate Denise Walsh who produced a storming finish to take silver in the lightweight women’s single sculls just 1.76 seconds behind Sweden’s Emma Fredh.
The memorable morning was completed when Gary and Paul O’Donovan edged out crews (6:20.060) from Poland and Italy and take silver in the lightweight double sculls final, with a powerful French crew claiming victory.
The O’Donovan brothers captured the hearts of the nation - and beyond - with their hilarious post race interviews at the Rio Olympics last August but they were outdone yesterday by their colleagues when it came to the banter and plamás.
“Dominic Casey wanted to make us hungry so he kept us away from the sport for a day or two. He only made us train once a week to make us hungry and by God we’d a hunger,” O’Driscoll told RTÉ. “In the warm-up we had a practice start and Mark wasn’t too happy with my aggression and he said, ‘By God, you better up that aggression off the start’ and I made sure all I was concentrating on was the first six strokes off the start and get out nice and hard with that aggression.”
O’Donovan added: “We were very comfortable so I kept saying to Shane to keep nice and relaxed and pound on the legs. He’s got fine chunky legs and he can use them.”
O’Driscoll interjected: “The drop of whiskey they gave us before the race, I threw it up just now.”
They then gatecrashed Walsh’s interview with RTÉ’s David Gillick with Mark telling the nation that the new European silver medalist was “wearing her lucky socks and all. Get them in the photo.”
Gary O’Donovan admitted that he and Paul had been inspired by their friends in the opening finals. “We saw Shane and Mark win and that was incredible. We won last year and we know what it feels like for them so it was amazing. Then we watched Denise win the silver and it was incredible. I don’t think anyone expected her to do that well; she was unbelievable. We were on a training camp last week in Italy and Aoife (Casey) from Skibbereen and Margaret (Cremen) from Lee got a silver medal at the Junior Europeans and that lifted the spirits no end. We were buzzing around the training camp like children... jumping for joy. The team is so good.
“To come away with a silver medal is pretty damn good.
“To have four European medals in the last two weeks going to Skibbereen is just something else. You don’t get that too often in Ireland.”
Irish Results, European Rowing Championships, Sunday 28th May:
Lightweight men’s pair, Final A:
1. IRL S O’ Driscoll/M O’ Donovan 06:32.340, 2. RUS 06:34.740, 3. ITA 06:34.890, 4. GBR 06:39.750, 5. FRA 06:44.360, 6. TUR 06:46.520.
Lightweight men’s double sculls, Final A:
1. FRA 06:17.670, 2. IRL G O’ Donovan/P O’ Donovan 06:20.060, 3. ITA 06:20.360, 4. POL 06:20.520, 5. GER 06:26.230, 6. GBR 06:31.110.
Lightweight women’s single sculls, Final A:
1. SWE 07:36.240, 2. IRL D Walsh 07:38.000, 3. SUI 07:39.940, 4. RUS 07:41.550, 5. ITA 07:46.000, 6. GER 07:46.230
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