After their silver medal win in the Rio Games, Gary and Paul finally make it back to Ireland and their beloved Lisheen, but before that Paul O’Donovan competes today in the A Final of the lightweight single sculls at the World Championships in Rotterdam.
Gary and Paul are due to arrive into Cork Airport on a flight from Amsterdam at 9.30pm tomorrow, with the homecoming proper to take place back in Skibbereen on Monday. A win today would put the tin hat on an incredible summer for the brothers, who endeared themselves to the nation not just through their efforts on the water, but their disarming manner with the media, and, in fact, anyone who came within their orbit.
Just yesterday, pictures appeared on social media of Gary posing for pictures in Rotterdam with the Goss family from near Ballydehob, in Holland on a family visit.
At home it seems the bonfires — real and proverbial — are being lit for the homecoming, but first there is the business in Rotterdam today.
Paul and Gary’s mother, Trish, told Today FM yesterday: “It has been a constant stream of callers, wellwishers, every time you turn around there are queues of people looking to wish everybody well.
“Everybody in West Cork, everybody in Ireland are so pleased at what the lads have achieved and they have thoroughly enjoyed their interviews.”
She said Paul had no break following the Rio win and had to turn his attentions immediately to the World Championships, and she marvelled at his powers of recovery as he was “ploughing through” the various heats to get to the final.
“He is very, very focussed,” she said, adding that everyone was crossing their fingers ahead of the 11.40am race today.
As for Monday? “There’s a massive party planned, apparently,” Trish said.
She’s not wrong. Skibbereen Chamber of Commerce expects up to 10,000 people to attend the homecoming of the Olympic silver medallists and their coach Dominic Casey on Monday, with an event at Skibbereen Rowing Club at 1pm followed later in the day by a parade through the West Cork town.
Mary O’Donovan of Skibbereen Chamber said people were “very excited” and that traders had “surpassed themselves” in decking out their premises with flags and bunting, while rowing club captain Sean O’Brien said: “It’s beginning to hit everyone just how big this is.” He said buses of rowers from “all over the place” are due to descend on Skibbereen on Monday.
The homecoming parade will start in the Cork Rd at 7pm on Monday, while Lisheen National School, which the lads attended, also plans to stage a special Olympic ceremony to mark the opening of the school year. Cork County Council is to afford the pair a civic reception at County Hall on Wednesday.