Because, as anyone who has enjoyed the brothers’ Rio interviews with RTÉ’s Joe Stack won’t have trouble believing, the pair tended to be messers, at times acting the jennet on the Ilen River.
And once Gary and their friend Diarmuid O’Driscoll pushed even the considerable patience of Dominic Casey, the club’s legendary coach, too far.
“Dominic was always threatening to kick us out of the rowing club,” Paul told the Southern Star before the Games. “There was one time then when Gary and Diarmuid were doing the worst of it – I can’t remember what they were doing, there was so much messing – and they got banned from the rowing club for a week.”
Casey, though you’ll have trouble persuading him to tell you about his role, is the heartbeat of the famed Skibbereen club that has served Ireland so proudly in recent decades.
Before the O’Donovans, the Coakley brothers Eugene (2000 and ’04) and Richard (2008) have represented Ireland at the Olympics, as did Timmy Harnedy, while Denise Walsh rowed in the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010.
This year, 17 rowers from the club represented the country and more than 90 have rowed for Ireland at various levels since Nuala Lupton - current club president - became the first Irish woman to row at a senior world championship in 1975.
Olympian Eugene Coakley puts it all down to Casey, who won eight national championships before turning to coaching in 1990.
Most of his work was done keeping people on the river, not banishing them. In 1998, after a hard day on the water, Coakley had lost patience with the sport, before Casey had a word.
“Dominic told me not to be stupid and he convinced me to keep going. Two years later I was off to the Olympic Games in Sydney as a substitute. He has instilled a work ethic that if you work hard then you will get the rewards,” Eugene told the Southern Star.
“If every club had a champion like Dominic then Irish rowing would be in a much better place. That’s our challenge – to develop more people like Dominic,’ said Rowing Ireland CEO Hamish Adams.
At a recent Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award evening in Rosscarbery, Gary and Paul O’Donovan were honoured for their European gold-winning performance in Germany. As usual, where there was limelight, Dominic couldn’t be found. He was supervising training as usual on the river.
He was missing too at the recent national championships in Inniscarra where Skibbereen won 13 titles to become the most successful rowing club in Ireland for the first time. It was the first nationals Casey had missed since 1980. He was in Banyoles, northern Spain at a pre-Olympic training camp for the O’Donovans.
Missing only in body, as Skibbereen’s senior rower Kenneth McCarthy, who won his 16th national title that weekend, attested.
“Dominic wasn’t there, but he still was in one way. He was texting and ringingwith everyone. It’s the interest he has and his dedication – that rubs off on everyone else then. He is a true leader. He’s a nice guy, he’s fair and honest, and he wants the best for everyone.”
“He’s magic, he has so much love and passion for the sport,’ Paul O’Donovan told the Southern Star after that camp.
“If we’re at a regatta, and maybe we’re taking a nap, he goes around and sits with other coaches to see what they’re doing and try to learn as much as he can. He always wants to move forward.”
Gary added: There are days when we could be on the lake going nuts with each other, but he sits back and lets us sort it out. If it gets out of hand, he’ll intervene.”
Yesterday, the O’Donovans and Dominic Casey reaped the rewards of a lot of time and effort. And patience.