00:00 Saturday 08 January 2011 

Skibb Rowing Club celebrates 40th anniversary in style

OVER 160 rowers, family, supporters and past members gathered in the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, on the Tuesday night after Christmas to celebrate a remarkable 40 years for Skibbereen Rowing Club since its foundation in 1970. Much planning had gone into how to fittingly mark such an auspicious occasion and all agreed the dinner was an outstanding success.

Former rowers travelled from as far away as Qatar to meet up with crewmates and it was inspiring to hear how athletes from each of the four decades had contributed to make the club such a force in both Irish and international rowing.

When Donie Fitzgerald, travelling from Manchester especially for the dinner, Richard Hosford and Danny Murphy decided that a rowing club should be established in 1970 on the banks of the Ilen River, they could not have dreamed of such a success story - these three gentlemen were suitably honoured and regaled the audience with stories from former times.

This included the move away from gig rowing to slide seats and to becoming affiliated to the Irish Amateur Rowing Union. All this laid the foundation for club members participating and medaling in European and World Championships and climaxing in Olympic Games representation, when Eugene Coakley rowed in a final of lightweight four at the Athens Olympics.

A roll of honour was read of those who had won national championships in each of the 40 years - a total of 72 athletes winning 123 national championships, and 75 Skibbereen rowers representing their country at a variety of competitions, all proudly flying the flag for town and country. A standing ovation was given to head coach Dominic Casey, for being the driving force behind much of this success.

However, no club can survive without the background work of the committee and a special presentation was made to Donal O'Sullivan in recognition of his 35 years of loyal and dedicated service as club chairman. The presentation was fittingly made by club president Nuala Lupton, who was the first Skibbereen oarsperson to win a national championship and represent her country. What a journey she started!

Other guests of honour included Mrs Kitty McCarthy and her daughter Marian. Mrs McCarthy sold the site of the clubhouse in Drisheen and enabled the development to take place. Also singled out for mention were the club's trustees - Richard Hosford, Donal O'Sullivan, Richard Roycroft and Fintan Lupton. Another esteemed guest was Michael Minihane, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, and daughter Ann and son-in-law Mark. Michael did so much to promote the club photographically and this worthy tradition is continued by his daughter, Anne. Another guest was Frank Fahy, Deputy Mayor of Skibbereen, who spoke about the town's pride in their local rowing club.

Following an excellent meal provided by the staff of the West Cork Hotel, stories were swapped into the wee small hours of historic wins in recent decades.

For current rowers who have achieved so much this year, with 14 national championships, it was a grounding in all who went before them to make Skibbereen Rowing Club such a standard bearer for Irish rowing.

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