Olympic medallists Paul and Gary O’Donovan’s rowing club has revealed ambitious expansion plans to ensure a conveyor belt of champions.
Richard Hosford, who, along with Donie Fitzgerald and Danny Murphy, founded Skibbereen Rowing Club in 1969, said it has long dreamt of developing a rowing training pool (the O’Donovans are Ireland’s first Olympic rowing medal winners.)
Mr Hosford said the club hopes the O’Donovan brothers’ success will help leverage funding.
He said a loan from a friendly bank manager, John O’Neill, in the early days of the club, helped them buy their first boat, in Union Hall.
“When we started out, we just hoped we’d produce good oarsmen. We raised our money through dances and socials in Lisheen Hall,” he said.
The club has since produced national, European, and World Champions, with Paul and Gary’s Olympic silver the crowning glory.
“We hope their success will result in more funding to help us at least develop an extra building. But our ambition is to put in a rowing pool to train youngsters year-round, quicker and easier. We’d want to be thinking, now, of bringing up people to replace these lads,” he said.
Club captain, Sean O’Brien, said the success in Rio of Irish athletes in “minority sports” such as badminton, hockey, and rowing, proved that funding needed to be examined by the Sports Council.
“There is potential there for Olympic medals. In rowing, for example, we can’t charge at the door, we don’t have gate receipts. We are operating completely with cap in hand, all the time. But we’re aiming for gold in Tokyo,” he said.
The godfather of Irish rowing, Mick O’Callaghan, who spearheaded the development of the National Rowing Centre (NRC) in Farran, said he knew when Paul and Gary were 16 that they would be stars.
“The NRC has been an integral part of their success and we will certainly be talking to government, and Cork County Council, about funding. We intend to strike while the iron is hot,” he said.
He was delighted when the lads won the Olympic silver, but he said Paul O’Donovan reminded him it was only silver and that he would have to wait four years for gold.
The chief executive of Rowing Ireland, Hamish Adams, who is based at the NRC, said they also intend to source additional funding.
The NRC is due to host the Home Internationals in July, 2018, followed days later by the Coupe de la Jeunesse — the world juniors.
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