Sport

LAST WORD COLUMN: Hands off BBC, they're ours

August 12th, 2018 6:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Compelling evidence: The Irish tricolour being held aloft by Gary and Paul O'Donovan, dressed in singlets that say Ireland on them, is enough to suggest that the Lisheen brothers are indeed Irish. Also, they're Ireland's first and only Olympic rowing medallists.

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JUST because Brexit is going belly-up, they think they can start claiming our most famous sons as theirs – but we’re not having it.

That famed bastion, the BBC, had the cheek to, for a few awkward (for them) moments, steal Gary and Paul O’Donovan from their homeland, their country of birth, and instead label them as British.

This hands-in-the-face moment came after Gary and Paul won silver medals in the lightweight double sculls at the European Rowing Championships in Scotland on Sunday, and when BBC interviewed them afterwards, their names were accompanied by the Union Jack.

The BBC tried to steal Gary and Paul. In broad daylight. On live TV. It was a plan full of holes, but they had the brashness and audacity to still attempt it. It’s bad manners, as comedian PJ Gallagher tweeted on Sunday. And we’ve had enough. Hands off, they’re ours.

In the past, British media has claimed Conor McGregor, Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell and Hozier as British (they can have Jonathan Rhys Meyers to maintain working relations between our two lands) – but their latest ignorance in realising that Ireland and Britain are two very separate lands, divided by a lot of water to further avoid confusion, is too close to home.

So, for the benefit of those in the BBC – and feel free to share with other media outlets across Great Britain – here are ten reasons why Gary and Paul are Irish and not British.

If they don’t desist, we’ll find/create a tenuous link between Sir Mo Farah and our great land, and slap a tricolour on him and call him Mossy. We’re that close ….

1. Lisheen lads:  Gary and Paul are from Lisheen, just outside Skibbereen. Their mother Trish confirmed this. She should know. She still lives in Lisheen, in the home where Gary and Paul grew up. Lisheen is in Ireland, not Great Britain. We’ve double-checked this on Google Maps. The World Rowing website even lists Paul’s place of residence as ‘Lisheen, Ireland’. That’s compelling evidence.

2. Lost in translation: The O’Donovans like ‘the craic’. Across the water, ‘the craic’ could mean something entirely different and could see you locked up for possession with the intent of supplying. But here in Ireland, we know what ‘having the craic’ really means. If you possess the craic in Ireland, you could also be called ‘a gas man’, which is not to be confused with an actual job in the energy sector. Also, during the Rio Olympics of 2016, Gary and Paul joked about sourcing some poitín on the streets of Rio for their coach Dominic Casey. We wouldn’t expect the UK public to know what poitín is, but we did. Like Gary and Paul, it’s uniquely Irish. Not British.

3. Be careful: In case the BBC forgot – and they obviously did – the interview Gary and Paul gave to Steve Redgrave and John Inverdale after winning Ireland’s first-ever Olympic rowing medals in 2016 (hint: there’s a big, big clue there being Ireland’s first Olympic rowing medallists). As the interview started, Gary quipped, ‘We’ll have to be careful what we say to these lads!’, a reference to BBC being a British organisation and not from Ireland, Gary and Paul’s home country.

4. Tash-tastic: Where else but in Ireland would you see four friends, all international oarsmen, among them Olympic and world medallists, entertain themselves by growing (dodgy) moustaches. Step forward, Gary and Paul, and Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan. Hygiene aside, this encapsulates Reason No. 2, having the craic. ‘We had nothing more to do than watch them grow to entertain ourselves,’ explained Gary, the original tash pioneer in the group, as the quartet started growing theirs on a training camp in Banyoles last summer. It’s an Irish thing. We got it. But then we would because they’re like us: Irish.

5. Scholars of history: Gary and Paul know their Irish history. This is their home country after all. During the Rio Olympics, after they qualified for the lightweight double final, Gary was quick to reference 1916 when he joked,’ ‘With the year that’s in it, it’s great to beat the Brits as well.’ That would be lost on the majority in Great Britain, but we here at home understood what he meant. 

6. Not a child washed in Skibb that night: After their Olympic exploits, Gary and Paul landed home to a heroes welcome in their hometown of Skibbereen. It definitely was Skibb and Gary and Paul were definitely there; I should know, I was on the open top bus that unforgettable evening and I did see both Gary and Paul there. There are another 10,000 souls or more who could also vouch, hand on heart, that both brothers were in Skibb that night with their Olympic silver medals, and that the homecoming was held in West Cork, which again is not Britain. 

6. Pure Whest Cork: The lads won’t mind me saying this, but they’re pure Whest Cork, and so they should be, it’s where they’re from. Notice their pronunciation of steak. They say ‘shteak’, with emphasis on the ‘sh’. This isn’t Cockney rhyming slang. This is Whest Cork country pronunciation for steak. We also point to their appearance on The Graham Norton Show in December 2016 with Graham Norton (also Irish) when the reliable source of information that is Twitter was overloaded with UK residents who, understandably given we are two different countries, couldn’t understand Gary and Paul’s accent. ‘I need subtitles,’ said one, another added, ‘I haven’t a single clue what they’re saying.’ But we didn’t expect you to, because they’re Irish. Not British.

7. It’s socially accepted: If the BBC captions team still refuses to believe the growing dossier of evidence that point to Gary and Paul (known to belt out Irish trad music – not Ed Sheeran – at regattas on the continent) being Irish, then we’d direct them towards the lads’ own Twitter pages. Gary has two photos of him competing in an Irish singlet. We know it’s Irish because it’s green and says Ireland on it. Paul’s Twitter page carries a photo of him in an Irish singlet rowing for his country, Ireland. Not Great Britain.

8. Local awards: Gary and Paul won the overall 2016 West Cork Sports Star Award on the back of their Olympic success that summer. These popular awards are only open to West Cork sports people. As sports editor of The Southern Star, one of the three main bodies involved along with The Celtic Ross and C103, we make sure all monthly winners undergo a rigorous process to ensure they are from West Cork. Gary and Paul passed each test. Paudie Palmer triple-checked their West Cork credentials and was satisfied. As we know in West Cork, if it’s good enough for Paudie, it’s good enough for everyone.

9. Presidential seal of approval: It doesn’t get much bigger than President of Ireland Michael D Higgins inviting you to his house to say well done, but that’s what he did last November, opening Arás an Uachtaráin to Skibbereen Rowing Club, its members and its rowers, including Gary and Paul. President Higgins said of Rio 2016: ‘The O’Donovan brothers brought Irish rowing to the attention of the world, and to see them on the podium collecting their medals was an enormously proud, uplifting moment for the whole country.’ Key word there is Irish. Surely the BBC now realises that Gary and Paul are Irish and not British.

10. Take Nana’s word for it: I feel I’ve exhausted nearly all avenues at this stage, and that the evidence above does confirm that Gary and Paul are indeed Irish and not British as this BBC would like us to believe. But I’ve saved the best until last, the reason above all others that our Lisheen lads are as West Cork as they come, and that is their Nana. Mary Doab from Ballincollig does not lie. She’s close to her two grandsons and they are close to her. Her word is final: they’re Irish. 

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