They’re coming home with Olympic silver but it is their comedy gold that has lifted the nation.
Skibbereen brothers, Paul and Gary O’Donovan took home Ireland’s first-ever Olympic rowing medal yesterday afternoon, but their cult status was established well before they stepped up to the podium.
Their post-race interviews won the hearts of the nation with tales of their steak breakfasts and searching for poitín in Brazil.
The Hairy Baby Clothing Company immortalised their faces and one-liners with a limited edition run of T-shirts by Friday morning; and by 5pm yesterday evening, the comic pair were trending on Twitter.
Their expression ‘pull like a dog’, in relation to their strenuous racing tactics took the top spot on Twitter, ‘rowing’ was second and ‘Gary and Paul O’Donovan’ came third.
“We’ve gained a big following, following some of our interviews. I mean you know you’ve just been asking us the questions and we’ve been answering them,” Gary told RTÉ Sport yesterday.
“For the year that’s in it, it’s great to beat the Brits,” was another of Gary’s one-liners as well as, “the food is fantastic here, you can have steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner with spuds if you like”.
To which his brother Paul, lamented, “they’ve no Kerr’s Pinks though”.
When asked about the tactics they were going to employ for the final, Paul said they were going to “pull like a dog,” the expression has since become its own hashtag on social media.
“A to B as fast as you can go, close the eyes and pull like a dog,” Paul answered.
After taking second place yesterday the brothers were asked what the medal meant to them and again the opportunity to answer was not without comedy.
“I’m just hoping a load more people will start to realise that [rowing is a fantastic sport] and take it up and give it a go. You’d never know. There are plenty of people out there with two arms and two legs like the two of ourselves,” said Paul.
They were also asked about team Ireland’s camp and the camaraderie amongst all of the athletes.
While they said that the mood and morale were strong, Paul explained that they were now fearful of one of the boxer’s reaction, having not taken home gold.
“We’re dreading going home now because Mick Conlan said he’d box the head off us if we didn’t get the gold,” he said.
Also adding the feelgood factor was their mother Trish O’Donovan, who was in the stands for the race.
Dressed in green, white and orange and the Irish flag painted on her face she was left open-mouthed when her sons took second place.
The brothers said they could hear their family and friends roaring support at them, while they were out on the water - a distance of about 250 metres away.
They thanked everyone at home for their support as well as their fans on the ground in Rio, with a special mention for their coach Dominic Casey.
Paul explained that before the final race that their mentor was very nervous, but he had a solution for in-hand for him.
“He’s a bit nervous. I’d say we’ll have to suss out a drop of poitín around Brazil to calm his nerves,” he said.
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