A FORMER Skibbereen Olympic rower has this advice for the town’s latest Olympians – if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.
Eugene Coakley represented Ireland at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and along with his brother Richard and Timmy Harnedy, they were Skibbereen Rowing Club’s three Olympic rowers, but they are now set to be joined in this exclusive club by Lisheen brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan.
Talented oarsmen Gary (22) and Paul (21) qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio after they finished fifth in the B final of the men’s lightweight double sculls at the world rowing championships in France last month.
This fantastic achievement saw the Skibbereen brothers honoured with the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Award for August last Friday night at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery.
The pair were joined by family and friends as their qualification for next summer’s Olympics was recognised by West Cork’s most popular sports awards scheme, which is in its 18th year.
Speaking to The Southern Star, former Skibbereen Olympian Eugene Coakley, who is now living in London, passed on his advice to the O’Donovan brothers ahead of the biggest year of their lives.
‘I would say to them to do exactly the same as what they are doing,’ Coakley said.
‘A national coach we had before, a Norwegian guy, used to say to us that in the year of the Olympics people don’t come down from space and get into the competition. They will be the same guys that you have been racing before. They have two arms and two legs so all you have to do is not get caught up in the media spin that goes with the Olympics.
‘They need to treat the Olympics the same way that they treated the world championships this year.’
Meanwhile, Eugene’s younger brother, Richard, who is now living in Australia, also heaped praise on the O’Donovan brothers for their ‘fantastic achievement’ and also lauded Skibbereen Rowing Club’s continued excellence.
‘There is no secret recipe to this success, it’s just hard work,’ Richard said.
‘I think it’s totally down to hard work and dedication by Dominic Casey, the committee and all the rowers. There is a really good atmosphere in the club.
‘There is a lot of confidence in the club and a good attitude that if you train really hard and listen to Dominic you will be in with a shot of winning at the championships and rowing for Ireland.’
Richard, who represented Australia in the Rowing World Cup last year, has stopped rowing now and is getting more involved in the coaching side of the sport.
He isn’t surprised to see the O’Donovan brothers qualify for the 2016 Olympics as the duo, along with Shane O’Driscoll and Diarmuid O’Driscoll, often raced him when he was training on the River Ilen years ago.
‘I remember training in the single and racing Gary, Paul, Shane and Diarmuid in a quad. They were only 13 or 14 at the time,’ he recalled.
‘They were all fearless and it didn’t matter who you were they wanted to beat you. They didn’t understand pacing themselves. They would sprint off and try and beat you.
‘If we were doing 20-minute races they might stay with me for two minutes and then blow up and slow right down. A few months later they would stay with me for five minutes and then blow up and before long they were staying with me for the whole race!’