Martin rows in behind Skibbereen's Olympic finest

Tonight as the Taoiseach addressed the rowers, their families, coaches and fellow politicians including Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney at the small event in Spearline in Skibbereen
Martin rows in behind Skibbereen's Olympic finest

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Ireland and Skibbereen Rowing Club's Olympic rowers at the reception in Spearline in Skibbereen from left: Gary O'Donovan, Lydia Heaphy, Fintan McCarthy, Paul O'Donovan, Emily Hegarty and Aoife Casey. Photo: Anne Minihane.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was back in the company of Olympic medal-winning rowers in Skibbereen for the second time in five years tonight - albeit in very different circumstances.

"I think back to five years ago, we were all a bit younger, and it was bedlam outside in the town," he told a smalll crowd gathered to celebrate the achievements of local gold medal-winning rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy and bronze medal winner Emily Hegarty. "We had great fun, great craic."

On that occasion in 2016, it was a celebration of Paul O'Donovan winning a silver medal alongside his brother Gary.

Tonight as the Taoiseach addressed the rowers, their families, coaches and fellow politicians including Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney at the small event in Spearline in Skibbereen, all present were securely masked up, reflecting the fact that mass celebrations just can't happen with Covid-19.

(Left to right) Team Ireland rowers Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Paul O'Donovan, Fintan McCarthy, Aifric Keogh and Eimear Lambe with their medals from the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
(Left to right) Team Ireland rowers Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Paul O'Donovan, Fintan McCarthy, Aifric Keogh and Eimear Lambe with their medals from the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Also present was another of the town's Olympic heroes Aoife Casey who, alongside Margaret Cremen from Rochestown, finished second in the B final of the lightweight women’s double sculls last week.

“What a wonderful privilege and pleasure it is to be here this evening, and to have been invited in my capacity as Taoiseach, to welcome home our Olympians, all of our Olympians, and to say thank you, and congratulations on an incredible success story,” Mr Martin said.

Gold medallist Fintan McCarthy is congratulated by Claire Lambe at Dublin Airport. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Gold medallist Fintan McCarthy is congratulated by Claire Lambe at Dublin Airport. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

“We are so proud of you, in so many ways.

“The successes at these Olympics, and your success, was about families, it's about friends, it's about the parish, it's about community, county, and country. It's teamwork. It's trust, courage, honesty and fair play and of course, hard work."

Bronze medallist Emily Hegarty with mother Mary and father Gerry at Dublin Airport as Team Ireland's rowers return from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Bronze medallist Emily Hegarty with mother Mary and father Gerry at Dublin Airport as Team Ireland's rowers return from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The Taoiseach spoke about the tremendous success and achievements each athlete had achieved, as well as the support and spirit that allowed them to reach the highest levels.

“I know that when you came home last evening, you would have met the children of your parishes and to them, it is their moment too. They are now watching you, and they're saying maybe that could be me,” Mr Martin said.

“And even if it isn't, then they will get on the water. They will strive that extra bit, to be involved in sport, and all I can say to you, that's an incredible legacy at such a young age for you to leave already. That's a great great gift to inspire young people to do the simple things in life,” he added.

Team Ireland rower, Aifric Keogh, celebrates with family at Dublin Airport. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Team Ireland rower, Aifric Keogh, celebrates with family at Dublin Airport. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Mr Martin also paid tribute to the Skibbereen Rowing Club, as well as the town itself, for producing so many top-tier athletes.

"The club really has been an astonishing success, you've bred so many European Champions, National Champions, and World Champions, it is just an extraordinary success story, and that will continue,” Mr Martin said.

“This town has so many gold medals and silver medalists, and world titles. You've put in Skibbereen on the map, and the rowing club has put Skibbereen on the map,” he added.

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