By Ger McCarthy
GARY and Paul O’Donovan’s anticipated homecoming is certain to attract massive numbers to Lisheen and Skibbereen on August 29th.
President of Skibbereen RC, Nuala Lupton, is a lifelong member and hopes the O’Donovan’s success will galvanise her sport, while helping to raise funds for the club.
Rowing is certainly in Lupton’s blood, as she was the first club member to row for Ireland at the 1975 World Championships and part of the first women’s crew to represent the country at a World Championships.
This weekend, Paul O’Donovan is competing, along with other Skibbereen rowers, in Rotterdam, where he will contest the Lightweight single sculls, where his brother Gary and a large Skibbereen Rowing club contingent will also be in attendance.
‘The lads’ success is very welcome, as nearly all of the club’s time is spent fundraising and selling raffle tickets. You have to provide the proper equipment for your rowers, otherwise they won’t get the chance to qualify for European, World (championships) or Olympic events. Equipment costs a lot of money so Skibbereen Rowing club continually has to raise funds.
‘In fairness, the West Cork politicians have been very good to us. When others didn’t know a thing about the club, they rowed in behind us and we are very thankful for their help. Obviously, lottery money helped build our magnificent state-of-the-art boathouse, but the support we received from local politicians has been vital when we needed to push our case,’ Nuala told The Southern Star.
The O’Donovans’ achievements in Rio haven’t come as too much of a surprise to Nuala or other Skibbereen RC members, as they have known Gary and Paul since they were youngsters messing about on the River Ilen.
‘It was great to witness the lads’ medal success in Rio, especially as we have come so close to Olympic (rowing) glory in years gone by,’ she said.
‘For me, the most nervous day was Thursday and not the actual final itself. They are seeded 5th in the world and if they didn’t get into the final it would have been awful for them. Anything can happen in these races, and they didn’t have a great start but by God, they fought back brilliantly.
‘Lisheen will also be anxious to put on their own welcome home for the lads too and we won’t want to interfere with that. Hopefully, a huge crowd will congregate in the main town square like we have done in times past, and give our rowers the best welcome home possible!’