Taoiseach Micheál Martin: Rowers made us all so proud to be Irish

The efforts of Ireland's gold medal-winning rowers, and all of our Olympians, have lifted the mood of the nation
Taoiseach Micheál Martin: Rowers made us all so proud to be Irish

Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy celebrate with their gold medals after winning the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls final at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Sporting excellence has a particular hold on our nation.

We love the dedication, determination, focus, and mental strength that it requires. And while we all have our favourite teams in different codes and leagues, the way in which the entire nation gets behind those representing Ireland is very special.

We can all be particularly proud of the team that has travelled to Tokyo to represent Ireland in the Olympic Games. The extraordinary levels of commitment, resilience, and hard work required to qualify for participation in the games can only be fully appreciated by the athletes themselves and those closest to them, but it is admired and appreciated by all of us.

This year, the sense of global endeavour and competition is made even more special coming as it does after 16 months of the restrictions and frustrations of the Covid pandemic.

Before a single athlete participated in a single event, we had cause to be proud of them. Each and every one of them, along with the entire support team, have conducted themselves with great professionalism, and are a credit to their families and communities.

We all shared in a truly historic moment when we all watched Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan take part in a breathtaking victory in the lightweight double sculls, earning the country’s first ever gold medal in rowing.
We all shared in a truly historic moment when we all watched Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan take part in a breathtaking victory in the lightweight double sculls, earning the country’s first ever gold medal in rowing.

They will inspire so many young people to get involved in all kinds of sports.

Since the beginning of the games, every Irish athlete and team have given it their all. And on Wednesday, it was tremendous to see Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh, and Emily Hegarty win a bronze medal for the rowing fours.

It lifted the whole country’s mood.

Truly historic moment

Just 24 hours later, we all shared in a truly historic moment when we all watched Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan take part in a breathtaking victory in the lightweight double sculls, earning the country’s first ever gold medal in rowing.

The mental strength they both showed to keep focused and stay calm as the German rowers went ahead in the race was a pleasure to behold.

They stayed true to themselves and their strategy, waited to pick their own moment to break loose, and were absolutely determined to maintain their lead.

All of their training and personal sacrifices were worth it.

They achieved their ultimate goal, and their physical and mental strength shone through, establishing them as the best in the world at their sport. And we all thank them for it.

It is our first gold medal in rowing, but it will certainly not be our last. The rowers made us all so proud to be Irish, and of course, as a Cork man, this pride was even more intense.

Congratulations to them and to their parents, family, friends, and entire support networks who share this victory.

Their wins and the sheer joy that they brought us will remain with us for a very long time.

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