By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Ireland has its first medal of the Rio Olympics thanks to the monumental efforts of Paul and Gary O’Donovan in the men’s lightweight double sculls.
The Skibbereen brothers already had earned cult status with their engaging interviews but will never detract from their star quality on the water.
The European champions rowed the race of their lives in pushing France to within half a second of gold, picking up their pace significantly after the opening 500 and moving from fifth to second in that stretch.
What a moment!August 12, 2016
At the three-quarter mark, they were the quickest boat on the water but the French pair managed to limit the damage to .008 seconds and in the end, Ireland just held off a rapidly-finishing Norway, who claimed bronze.
It is worth remembering that the O’Donovans are just 23 and 22, but excitement about what might be achieved in the future should be parked for the moment, and the history-making relished.
Credit must go to Rowing Ireland too, who have gotten their act back in gear in terms of governance and their high performance set-up, with the result that their sport is now in an elite class as an Olympic medal-winning sport for Ireland, having produced countless world champions over the past 20 years or so.
Cork Institute of Technology has congratulated the West Cork brotherson their success.
Gary is a fourth year student of Business at CIT and staff and students took time out of their work and study schedules on Friday afternoon to cheer on the West Cork brothers.
CIT President, Dr Brendan J Murphy, said: "To participate in the Olympic Games is in itself a great honour and achievement and to win an Olympic medal is an exceptional accomplishment. We are delighted for Gary, and his brother Paul, and extend our sincerest congratulations and best wishes to them both and to all athletes participating at the Games."
The O'Donovan brothers ahead of Portugal, Austria, Cuba among many others in medal table. Level with Denmark.— Kieran Cunningham (@KCsixtyseven) August 12, 2016
The Head of Student Affairs, Dr Dan Collins, a fellow West Cork man, noted that the medal is a "culmination of Gary and Paul’s work, perseverance, dedication, and commitment to the sport."
He offered his congratulations on behalf of all CIT Students and Sports Department and staff, to Gary and his brother Paul, their family and "all who have been associated with this momentous achievement."
Dr Collins noted that he believed the brothers goal was to reach the final and this they did with conviction, grit and perseverance.
Gary was, earlier this year, presented with CITs International Achievement Award at the Annual Sports Awards. Ceremony.
Unfortunately, the women’s lightweight double sculls pair of Sinead Lynch and Claire Lambe found their final a bridge too far, never landing a blow and finishing fifth.
The pair were slow out of the blocks and it was evident that either the physical exertions of reaching the final, the mental release of having done so, or a combination of factors had sapped them of any remaining energy.
To that end, the two days lost to the weather may have been significant, particularly to 39-year-old Lynch.
The women’s final was won by the Dutch pair of Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head and they held off the fast-finishing Canadian crew – repeating the 1-2 from Ireland’s semi-final, which again indicates just how far off their best Ireland were today.
But while they will be overshadowed now on a famous day in the annals of Irish sport, it should be remembered that they overachieved in making the final and have placed themselves in elite company by doing so.