‘It was like The Matrix … Paul just stops and grabs it’

September 19th, 2022 8:30 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning European gold last month. (Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO)

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FINTAN McCarthy has lifted the lid on an incredible moment that occurred in just his first international regatta alongside Paul O’Donovan in the Irish men’s lightweight double.

While Fintan and Paul have gone on to win Olympic, World and European gold, in their first regatta together in the double – at 2019 World Rowing Cup III in Rotterdam – they had to settle for a silver medal. It remains the only international regatta where they haven’t won gold.

Germany won the A final by 0.03 of a second from the new-look Irish double that saw Fintan, dislodging Gary O’Donovan, take his place in the boat with Paul. 

That final is particularly memorable for a moment in the second quarter when Paul calmly reached into the water, during the race, to flip a stroke coach – a performance monitor that keeps track of the boat speed, stroke rate, distance and time – back into the Irish double after Fintan had knocked it out.

There was pressure on Fintan in that regatta as he had just displaced Gary O’Donovan and wanted to prove he deserved his place alongside Paul.

‘We were going down the course. Obviously it was terrible, terrible conditions... You know when you hit a wave and it knocks your hand down. It knocked my hand down and then when I went to take the catch my knuckles caught the bottom of the speed coach and knocked it into the water,’ McCarthy explained on a popular rowing podcast, The Row Show.


‘We were rowing along for maybe five or ten strokes, Paul took a few looks. He told me after he was thinking “what has he done?”. It was like The Matrix or something, Paul just stops and grabs it … it didn’t even look like he was looking at it … he just put his hand in, grabbed it and flicked it back into the boat.

‘I took half a stroke to keep the boat going while he did it and then we were straight back on it. It was crazy.’

Fintan, new in the boat, admits he didn’t own up to his mistake initially because he wanted to keep his place in the Irish double.

‘For the longest time after I refused to accept that it was me who did it! I was saying it was a wave that came and knocked it off its mount!’ he laughs, but lessons were learned and now he makes sure the stroke coach is tightly fastened before every race. ‘There was a lot on the race as well because we had the situation where if it didn't go as planned we might re-trial it. We did end up doing another trial after Rotterdam because Gary did quite well in the single, and we didn't win, so we did another race. Thankfully it went okay and we stayed in the double.’

The rest, as they say, is history.

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