FOUR of Skibbereen Rowing Club’s famous five took to the water for their opening heats at the World Rowing Championships in Florida on Sunday (and all won) – but plans are already underway for the next wave of young stars to make a splash in the world of rowing.
Paul O’Donovan, Mark O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll and Denise Walsh will all be fighting it out with the best in the world for the coming week or so – Gary O’Donovan is a reserve after a viral infection ruled him out of the lightweight double – but here at home, work continues to teach and encourage local kids who hope to follow in their heroes’ footsteps.
Skibbereen Community School became the first school in Cork to sign up to Rowing Ireland’s schools’ rowing programme, Get Going Get Rowing, earlier this year, and now two more schools, Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí and Schull Community College, will benefit from this initiative, for both girls and boys, that is spreading the rowing gospel across the country.
‘Get Rowing Get Going is a national programme and there are centres in Dublin, Carlow, Limerick, Galway and Skibbereen,’ explained local community coach, and Skibbereen RC member, Emily Dulohery.
‘It’s a participation programme. In 2017 we will have given 20,000 young people the opportunity to try out rowing through their schools.
‘This help gets kids active and gives them the opportunity to try something new, and all this is possible within their PE class.
‘It’s a six-week programme in the school. The first four to five weeks are held indoors in the school where we focus on areas like rowing technique on the rowing machine, basic instructions and there is a fun element too. Then, for example, here in Skibbereen we’ll bring them to the club, take them out in a boat to give them a feel for rowing – and all within their PE class.’
Dulohery believes that the Get Rowing Get Going programme is only going to get bigger and better as rowing enjoys a profile and popularity in Ireland that it’s never had before, and that can be traced back to the ongoing success of Skibbereen’s top rowers at international level, with the O’Donovan brothers Gary and Paul ideal role-models for young kids.
‘Skibbereen Community School was the first school in Cork to come online with the programme last March and it’s been brilliant. The school has been very supportive and the kids have been excited to try it out,’ Dulohery explained.
‘What makes it so exciting for them is that they are able to do something that Gary, Paul, Shane, Mark and Denise can do. They have seen their heroes on the TV and read them in the papers – but they have met them and that makes it very tangible for them.
‘It’s not every day you can meet your Olympic heroes and touch their Olympic medal, and that gives them all an incentive.’
Top Irish single sculler Denise Walsh is also a community coach here in West Cork. A European silver medallist, Denise shares her knowledge and passion for the sport.
‘They are getting to meet Denise in the classes, she is able to encourage them, talk to them about her training, her experience, and how she has got to where she is. That makes it very real for kids,’ Dulohery added.
The programme provides a pathway from Get Going Get Rowing to progress into a club environment, so while the stars of now will hit the headlines at the world championships in Florida, the stars of tomorrow are quickly learning what it takes to make it to the top.