Paul O'Donovan hailed as Ireland's best-ever rower

October 8th, 2017 11:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

As good as gold: Skibbereen Rowing Club's Mark O'Donovan, Paul O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll celebrate after they won gold medals at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Mark and Shane won the men's lightweight pair and Paul won the men's lightweight single. (Photo: INPHO)

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IT’S a frightening thought for lightweight single scullers across around the world – but Paul O’Donovan is only going to get better.

The Lisheen man (23) defended his men’s lightweight single sculls crown at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida last Friday, making it back-to-back world titles.

Former world single sculls champion, Irish rower Niall O’Toole told The Southern Star that there is more to come from the Skibbereen Rowing Club hero.

‘He is 23 and he is still going to keep getting better. It’s scary to think what he can do. He’s not even at his strongest yet. He will get stronger,’ said O’Toole, who rates O’Donovan as Ireland’s best-ever rower.

‘For what he has done I think he is the best Irish rower of all time. I really do,’ O’Toole explained.

‘People achieved things at different times in the sport that were iconic – the first gold medal, the first sweep medal, the first women’s medal, the first back-to-back world champions. But what Paul has done is win an Olympic medal and win back-to-back world championships, and I think he is the greatest Irish rower of all time.

‘Some of my best friends are in the reckoning to be considered Ireland’s best-ever rower so I don’t say this lightly, but Paul is the best we have produced.’

Paul O’Donovan wasn’t the only Skibbereen Rowing Club success story from the world championships as Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll completed the perfect international season when they won gold in the men’s lightweight pair. It was the fifth successive gold medal of the year, to follow on from their success at the European championships and the three World Rowing Cup regattas.

Seeing as the lightweight pair is not an Olympic boat, Mark and Shane have a decision to make if they want to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and Niall O’Toole feels they should make the move to heavyweight.

‘Shane and Mark have to go in the heavyweight pair. They are ten kilos off where they should be. Now is the time that they need to focus on building that muscle for Tokyo 2020,’ O’Toole said.

Also, European silver medallist Denise Walsh finished sixth in the A final of the women’s lightweight single sculls to round off her most successful season to date.

All the Irish lightweight rowers are coached by Dominic Casey, Skibbereen, who is a Rowing Ireland High Performance coach.

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