‘Getting this award is just like winning a race all over again'

January 28th, 2018 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Best in the world: Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll were the golden boys of Irish rowing in 2017 after winning five international gold medals, including World and European gold.

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KIERAN McCARTHY spoke to one half of the 2017 West Cork Sports Stars of the Year, Shane O'Driscoll, from his temporary base in New Zealand

KIERAN McCARTHY spoke to one half of the 2017 West Cork Sports Stars of the Year, Shane O’Driscoll, from his temporary base in New Zealand


GOOD news travels fast.

Shane O’Driscoll might be on the other side of the world these times – but he felt like he was back home in West Cork on Saturday night.

At 11.30pm at the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards in Rosscarbery, world and European lightweight pair champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane were announced as the 2017 overall winners.

The pair are currently training in New Zealand for a few weeks – along with Gary and Paul O’Donovan – before they plan to hop across to Australia for another six-week training spell, and while the West Cork Sports Star Awards were on, they were out on Lake Karapiro on the North Island.

When they got off the water, even though they are 13 hours ahead and it was Sunday afternoon, their phones were hopping.

‘Everyone is messaging us, congratulating us and the phone has been buzzing since the awards night. It’s just like winning a race all over again, there has been fierce excitement,’ a delighted Shane said.

‘It’s super to win this award, it means a lot to the two of us.

‘Our lightweight success was a good few months ago, we’re over here in New Zealand and we’ve moved to heavyweight since so we are at the bottom now and need to work ourselves up so it’s nice to be reminded that we achieved a lot last year.

‘We are looking at our next goals now but it’s nice to be reminded of our success last year.’

Disappointed to miss out on this year’s awards night, Shane did represent Gary and Paul at the awards night in January 2015 when they were at a training camp preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio so he knows all about the glitz, glamour and razzmatazz attached to the biggest night in the local sports calendar.

‘I’m always taken back by the success of the sportspeople in West Cork,’ he said.

‘There are so many good teams and so many good individuals around, so many great coaches and great managers, it’s an incredible corner of the country.

‘I don’t know what it is, is it a case of that we have nothing else to do except play sport or are we just work horses!’

These days, Shane and Mark have their shoulder to the wheel as they continue their transition from the non-Olympic lightweight pair to the Olympic-class heavyweight pair.

It will take time, Shane stresses.

‘We do an extra weights session, alright,’ he said,

‘It’s slow but it’s going well, we think. We’re on the right track. You’d love to hurry it on but you have to be patient with these things. 

‘We’re only in it a few months so far and the next few months will tell a lot. By the end of this trip in April, hopefully we will see more improvements, we’d like to see that the weight is appearing and that we put on a bit of muscle on our time away.

‘Our diet has changed, we take in more calories every day.’

Shane and Mark are staying with New Zealand lightweight rower James Lash, right beside Lake Karapiro, which the house overlooks.

They’re training out of Waikato Rowing Club.

‘The lake is very similar to Inniscarra and where we are staying is similar to at home in Dripsey where we are looking out over the lake. We’re only a ten-minute cycle to the lake,’ said Shane, who highlighted the benefits of the trip to New Zealand and Australia.

‘It’s nice to get on the water every single day. We wouldn’t get that at home, we’d be on the rowing machine and might get out two or three days in the week, especially when the weather has been so bad at home.

‘The Kiwis work it a little different, they have their summer racing now and then they go to Europe for our summer racing so they get two summers and racing all year round. They are in peak condition. 

‘We are in our winter training cycle and we wouldn’t be racing sharp yet. We will have to get sharp to compete against them so that will stand to us this year, that we will get a few races in over here so by the time June comes around we will have that sharpness and peak form from the off.’

The four Skibbereen athletes plan to race in the New Zealand Rowing Championships, starting on February 13th, representing Skibbereen Rowing Club.

‘We are racing for Skibbereen out here – that’s a first,’ Shane said.

‘It will be very competitive racing because it’s their trials. They have an eight that will separate into pairs so we will be racing fellas from the eight, the four, the pair, and they’ll all want to be in top form to try and make the national team.

‘To be in the mix would be good for us, we don’t know exactly how high the standard will be but it will be high.

‘They have a pair that came third in the world championships last year so if we can live with them as long as we can, we’d be doing very well. That’s where we want to be.’

After that, they’ll get in some sightseeing before flying across to Sydney and linking up with Skibb native and former Irish Olympic rower Richard Coakley who is based in Sydney. The plan is for the Skibb quartet to also compete in the Australian national championships in mid-March.

It’s so far, so good in New Zealand for Shane.

The weather is a lot, lot warmer than here, with Factor 50 Shane’s new best friend. 

The food is good too, he reports, with his New Zealand host providing a steady supply of potatoes every day.

And the mood in the camp is high ahead of their first year of heavyweight rowing – and now they have the 2017 Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Award waiting for them when they get home, to remind them of the year when they conquered the world.

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