BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SKIBBEREEN’S latest Olympic rowers have a great chance of bringing a medal back to West Cork, insists their life-long friend and Irish international rower Shane O’Driscoll.
Brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan will compete in the first heat of the lightweight men’s double sculls at the Olympics in Rio this Sunday afternoon.. The heat starts at 3.20pm Irish time and will be live on RTÉ 2.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club heroes won gold at the European championships in Germany in May and are ranked number five in the world heading into the Olympics in Brazil, which start on Friday.
Fellow Skibbereen club-mate Shane O’Driscoll, who along with Mark O’Donovan will represent Ireland at the world senior rowing championships at the end of the month, has backed the O’Donovan brothers to spark massive celebrations in Skibb and West Cork on August 12th, the day of the final.
‘They can bring home a medal. Absolutely. Definitely,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘There are no new crews in Rio that will take them by surprise, they have raced everyone and they have put it up to all the other crews.
‘They beat the Norwegians in the Europeans, they really pushed the South Africans early in the year in the first World Cup regatta, and they’ve even pushed the French as well.
‘Paul and Gary have a good sprint, which all the other crews will be wary of because they know that the Irish crew will come strong in the last quarter of the race – they’re very powerful coming towards the finishing line. The rest of the field will know that.
‘The lads are relaxed going into it, which is great. They feel good, they had a good training camp and they are confident. They’re in a good place and everything has gone according to plan.’
Gary and Paul O’Donovan – coached by Skibb’s Dominic Casey – follow in the footsteps of previous Skibbereen Rowing Club Olympians Eugene Coakley, Richard Coakley and Timmy Harnedy, while Denise Walsh competed in the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010.
The O’Donovan’s will look to go straight from the heat to next Wednesday’s semi-final, and avoid the repechage on Monday (starting at 1.40pm Irish time). The semi-finals of the lightweight men’s double sculls are on next Wednesday (July 10th), with the first race starting at 1.10pm – there will be a special screening of their semi-final at Skibbereen Credit Union, which will host a Brazilian-style celebration for the race. This gets underway at 12.30pm.