Gary O'Donovan: When we think we are all done, Dominic will get more out of us

August 11th, 2021 4:10 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Dominic Casey is the man behind the unprecedented success for Irish lightweight rowing from 2016 to present day.

Share this article

GARY O’Donovan, like the rest of us, is still trying to figure out what makes Dominic Casey such a force of nature in the world of rowing.

Coach Casey guarantees success and glory – just look at the evidence. He has helped Skibbereen Rowing Club become the country’s most successful rowing club and they have won more national titles (181) than any other club.

The Aughadown man has transferred that success to the international scene and the recent returns are, quite simply, phenomenal. Since 2016 he has helped mastermind Irish lightweight rowers – well, Skibb rowers, really – winning historic Olympic gold and silver medals, as well as numerous World and European titles, and a splash of Rowing World Cup medals as well.

Under Casey’s watchful eye, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have won Olympic gold, Gary O’Donovan has won Olympic silver and all three have won World lightweight double gold. Paul has won two World titles in the lightweight single as well. Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, two more mighty Skibb men, were crowned World and European champions in the lightweight pair in 2017. Denise Walsh won European silver in the lightweight single in 2017. Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen, in the lightweight women’s double, qualified for the Tokyo Games and finished eighth.

Coach Casey, crowned World Rowing Coach of the Year in 2018, has a stacked CV – but why is he so successful?


Gary O’Donovan, who has enjoyed incredible success with Casey as his coach, has his own theories which he shared during a Q&A session at Spearline on Monday when Skibbereen Rowing Club held a welcome home reception for all its Olympians.

‘I have been trying to figure this one out myself for a while. I think it helps that he is insane and I think it helps that he drives us insane,’ Gary laughs, ‘and that really helps in rowing, being insane and crazy. We’ve all got on well with that mentality.

‘I really have been trying to figure this out and when I was reading Mark O’Donovan’s article in The Southern Star, when he mentioned that Shane (O’Driscoll) and himself couldn’t do anymore training at a camp, they said

they couldn’t do anymore but Dominic made them go training again. It’s interesting that whenever you talk to someone around the area or someone involved in the rowing club, usually they are giving out about Dominic, complaining and they’re not happy with him over something or another.

‘Like that, the first reaction of the lads when Dominic asked them to go out and do that last session was to complain, “are you mad, man?” “We can’t”, “are you nuts?”

‘I can guarantee that with everyone in this room, at one point or another Dominic has made them do something they didn’t think they could do.’

Gary O'Donovan was a reserve for the Irish lightweight men's double at the Olympics.


One story springs to mind for Gary.

‘Shane O’Driscoll’s brother is an engineer up in Ringaskiddy, he had a job one Saturday of bringing a massive cruiser into the harbour,’ Gary explains.

‘The Skibbereen Regatta was on the same day and Shane came in saying, “Jesus, Dominic won’t leave Kevin alone, but he can’t leave the harbour, he has to bring in this ship”. You see, Dominic wanted Kevin to work at the regatta on the Saturday. Shane was telling me that Kevin can’t come in, but the whole thing went over my head until I saw Kevin up at the start line, marshalling boats around at 10 in the morning when I was having my first race!

‘I went up for my third race of the day at six in the evening and Kevin was still there, marshalling boats! You could only imagine that the cruise ship was stuck outside!

‘That’s the thing, Dominic gets the best out of people, he gets people to do things that they don’t think they can do. He does that with the athletes and he can get the most out of us. When we think we are all done, he will get more out of us. And he will get that out of the people around us because we need people to help us.

‘We need the sports scientists, we need all the resources that Sport Ireland can give us, we need the help of the people of the rowing club, we need the help of the people of the community, even if it is just little things like the people who make the soup for us in the tent at the Cork Regatta. We come in, it’s freezing cold, pissing rain, after two races and all we want is to be warm and there is warm soup there – and Dominic got that for us. Someway indirectly he got someone to do that and that helps us and that helps all the young athletes.

‘It’s everybody around us getting the best out of themselves and Dominic encourages that. Through that we can encourage each other to get the best out of ourselves. It’s open, honest, let’s get the most out of each other for everyone’s benefit.

‘I don’t think there is a magic recipe but I do think that is part of the concoction, that everybody is a part of it and Dominic gets everyone involved.’

Share this article

Related content