Family says Olympic hero Fintan McCarthy was ‘not the most sporty child’ but stuck at rowing

Community overjoyed at Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan's Olympic success. 
Family says Olympic hero Fintan McCarthy was ‘not the most sporty child’ but stuck at rowing

The family of Fintan McCarthy Tom and Sue McCarthy, his sister Caitlin and brother Jake celebrate the gold medals won by Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympics in Tokyo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The historic Gold medal win of Cork rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy is proof that sporting success is open to everyone - even if you’re not keen on GAA or football, Fintan’s brother has said.

Trish O'Donovan, mother of Paul O'Donovan, with Mick McCabe, Mike, and Pauline Doab and Marie Carey and Declan Boyle celebrate the gold medals won by Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympic in Tokyo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Trish O'Donovan, mother of Paul O'Donovan, with Mick McCabe, Mike, and Pauline Doab and Marie Carey and Declan Boyle celebrate the gold medals won by Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympic in Tokyo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Fintan McCarthy was “shocking” at team sports in school, his siblings Jake and Caitlin McCarthy said with a laugh from their home outside Skibbereen after their brother’s historic win.

“He was not the most sporty as a child,” Caitlin said.

“He used to run away from the ball when it was thrown to him as a child.” But he started rowing at 15 “and stuck with it”, Jake, Fintan’s twin brother, said.

It shows that even the least likely person can do it if they put their mind to it.

“The community and vibe here in Ireland is very much GAA and ball sports but if people are not interested in that kind of thing, there are other possibilities out there. There are other avenues for people.” Jake said that he has vowed to keep his twin brother “humble” when he returns from Tokyo on Sunday.

Noreen Collins, Líle O'Sullivan and Kathleen Courtney from O'Sullivans shop in Skibbereen celebrate the gold medals won by Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympics in Tokyo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Noreen Collins, Líle O'Sullivan and Kathleen Courtney from O'Sullivans shop in Skibbereen celebrate the gold medals won by Skibbereen rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympics in Tokyo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

But the family is immensely proud of his enormous achievement.

“I don’t think proud is a big enough word for how we’re feeling,” Fintan’s mother Sue said.

“It’s like a dream,” Caitlin said.

Large Tricolour flags line the road leading up to the McCarthy’s idyllic west Cork home and Olympic bunting is laced across the courtyard in honour of their athlete and his enormous achievement.

His teammate, Paul O’Donovan’s family lives just a few kilometres down the road.

The west Cork town of Skibbereen has won more Olympic medals for rowing than the entire Great Britain team in what was a quintessentially British sport.

After Paul and his twin brother Gary won Silver at the Rio Olympics, there was an upswell in interest in the sport in Skibbereen and the McCarthy’s expect the same effect this time.

“I think he’ll inspire a lot of people across the board,” his father Tom McCarthy said.

“When Gary and Paul got the Silver back in Rio the number rowing in Skibb hugely increased so hopefully this will again encourage people to get involved and get active,” Jake said.

Jake and Fintan themselves were inspired by the O’Donovan’s stellar performance back in Rio.

They ‘had a debrief’ after watching the race and ‘put their plan in place’ to become Olympians themselves.

An injury kept Jake out of the contest this time but he hopes to be able to challenge for a place in Paris in three years.

The family watched the race together at home early this morning.

“I think 6am was the bed time,” Caitlin said.

“I tried to go to sleep but I was just lying there with all these thoughts going through my head,” Jake said.

“It’s hard to wind down after that,” Sue said. “They put in the best performance they had all season.” Contact with Fintan has been sparse since the win but the family is looking forward to his return into Dublin on Sunday.

“He said his phone is broken from getting so many messages,” Sue said with a smile.

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