It had a sheen of Rio, the carnival atmosphere that descended on the town of Skibbereen when its two Olympians, Paul and Gary O’Donovan, yesterday claimed a place in the men’s lightweight double sculls Olympic final.
“Race On! Here we row, here we row,” read the excited tweet from Lisheen National School as the two brothers, former pupils of the school, crossed the finishing line in third place, ahead of Team GB.
Heightening the excitement, our female rowers, Claire Lambe and Sinead Lynch, qualified for the women’s lightweight double sculls final.
The O’Donovans were typically cool about their achievement after the semi-final.
“It doesn’t really bother us that we are in an Olympic final,” said Gary. “It was kind of in our heads all year that it was going to happen. I know we didn’t act like it. We kind of kept it cool. But it is more natural now that we have made it — thankfully. It is just another race. We will go from start to finish as fast as we can.”
Their father Teddy, who is in Rio and who coached them at junior level, said: “They were always over-achievers as juniors and I always dreamt of them making the Olympics — and an Olympics final. It’s a dream come true. Proud is not the only way I am feeling, I am honoured and privileged.
“If they are anywhere like that [the performance in the semi-final] tomorrow, they will be in the medals.”
And so today all sorts of shenanigans are planned on these shores to egg on our Olympic final hopefuls from close to 9,600km away.
In Ballincollig, at 12 O’Donovan Crescent (yes, that is the actual address), the O’Donovan grandmother, Mary Doab, will open her doors to friends and neighbours to share in the drama when her grandsons line up at the starting line at 2.44pm.
“She had her hair done because you wouldn’t know who’d show up today,” her son Michael told the Irish Examiner.
Mary has played no small role in her grandsons’ success, baking a brown cake for them every day and putting them up for a year and a half as they trained for Rio.
“The boys were training on Inniscarra Lake so they stayed with my mother because they couldn’t have travelled from Skibb everyday,” Michael said.
Describing his nephews as “gas men, tough men” who are “cool enough, and take everything in their stride” Michael said he — and they — will be “very surprised” if they don’t win a medal today.
For the past couple of years, Paul, 22, and Gary, 23, have had a gruelling training regime, on the lake for two hours every morning, home to eat and sleep, and then back on the lake in the evening.
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