Skibbereen's Olympic rowers in fundraising push after qualifying for Rio 2016

Gary and Paul O'Donovan, international rowers featuring in an exhibition in Skibbereen. Picture: Debbie Heaphy

The public is being urged to row in with support for a sporting club in West Cork with two Olympians already qualified for Rio 2016.

Nationally and internationally, Skibbereen Rowing Club has made a remarkable impact on the sport over the past five decades.

However, the helping hand the club really needs this year is financial support to see its athletes achieve the ultimate dream — Olympic medals. And tonight, photographer Debbie Heaphy launches a solo exhibition, Row, as a fundraiser for the club.

She spent four years recording, through images, the club’s activities. In advance of the unveiling in the town’s Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, she said: “I am totally in awe of the resilience, focus, and commitment of these young people.

“I have watched them strive to achieve what, at times, would seem to be unreachable goals,” said Ms Heaphy.

All proceeds from the exhibition of prints, and a special publication, will aid the club. Running in the centre’s Stairwell Gallery, the exhibition will continue until April 2.

Each framed image is limited to one print/ edition only.

Brothers Gary, 22, and Paul, 21, O’Donovan from Lisheen, near Skibbereen, have already qualified for the men’s lightweight double sculls in Rio, after their achievements at the world championships last year.

They are coached by Dominic Casey, a local man who is a powerhouse of the sport nationally.

With 17 of its athletes featuring strongly at national level, at least three other rowers are still in with a chance of qualification for Rio.

Relying heavily on public support, the exhibition is one of a number of events in the club’s The-Road-To-Rio-And-Beyond fundraiser campaign.

Ms Heaphy, presenting her first solo exhibition, accompanied coach Mr Casey and his charges during many early morning training sessions.

The exhibition is a compilation of what she regards as her best photographs with the club.

She says: “I hope to portray through the exhibition, the intensity of training and the essence and sense of place of the Ilen River and also a snapshot of the unique and extraordinary journey of the boys and girls from Skibbereen who are determined to take on the world.”

n Row opens tonight at 7pm at Uillinn with guest speaker swimmer Steve Redmond, the first person to complete the Oceans7 Challenge.


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