Pressure rests lightly on Paul O'Donovan’s broad shoulders

December 28th, 2022 10:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

RTÉ Sport Team of the year Award winners, Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan. (Photo: ©INPHO/Nick Elliott)

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IRELAND’S greatest ever rower Paul O’Donovan is not weighed down by pressure or expectation – because he doesn’t let it bother him.

Paul and Fintan McCarthy were crowned RTÉ Sport Team of the Year Award winners last Saturday night, in recognition of their World and European gold medal success in the Irish lightweight men’s double sculls.

The Skibbereen dream team’s dominance of the rowing world shows no sign of slowing down, as they put more distance between themselves and the chasing pack in 2022.

In the Irish lightweight men’s double they are undefeated in their last 19 races, stretching back to the 2019 World Rowing Championships, and since then they have won Olympic, World (2), European (2) and World Cup gold, as well as being crowned the best men’s rowing crew in the world after 2021.


Paul’s medal haul is even more impressive, as he has now won two Olympic medals, five World gold, three European gold, and plenty more as well.

He is regarded as the best in the business. A generational athlete. But the 28-year-old Lisheen man doesn’t let other peoples’ expectations rest heavy on his broad shoulders.

‘I get confused when people are talking about this pressure and expectation that is put on you by other people. It’s not something that I have ever really considered. I'm here to do it for myself, not for other people. I am not too bothered about letting down their expectations, I am only there to do my own thing,’ he explained at the RTÉ Sport Awards.

Meanwhile, Fintan McCarthy, the second Aughadown man in the all-conquering boat, admits he has enjoyed a dream few years since he won his seat in the Irish lightweight men’s double in 2019. Add in his two Irish Rowing Championships wins in 2022 – the lightweight men’s single and the senior single sculls – and this has been another year to savour.

‘The post-Olympic year is always going to be … not a tricky one, but different. We definitely tried a few different things. We spent a lot of time training by ourselves – Paul was in college and I was enjoying life. It’s been a dream few years for me, to be honest,’ Fintan said.

In 2023 attention will start to turn towards the Olympics in Paris, and Paul and Fintan will be the crew to beat.

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