BY KIERAN McCARTHY
A FANTASTIC year for Skibbereen Rowing Club has got even better after they were unveiled as the 2015 Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Club of the Year.
By its own high standards, this has been a remarkable year for Skibbereen Rowing Club.
Earlier in the year the club – regarded as the undisputed number one rowing club in the country – equalled the record (150) of national rowing championships that Neptune Rowing Club (Dublin) has long held. after four successes at the nationals in Inniscarra.
In total, 17 Skibbereen Rowing Club athletes represented Ireland at various levels in the past 12 months, including the senior world rowing championships, the U23 worlds, the Home International Regatta and the European Coupe de la Jeunesse.
Adding to an incredible year was the international success of five of the club’s elite rowers, as Lisheen brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan have qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. They qualified the men’s lightweight double sculls after superb performances at the world championships in France.
Also, Shane O’Driscoll (Poundlick) and Mark O’Donovan (Lisheen) won the B final in the men’s lightweight pair at the senior world championship and finished seventh overall, while Denise Walsh finished 14th in the women’s lightweight single scull.
These five rowers formed one third of the Irish team that competed at the senior world championship, while renowned coach, and a man who has been central to the club’s ongoing success, Dominic Casey continues to shine at both international and local level.
Skibbereen Rowing Club is the second winner of the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Club of the Year award, following in Newcestown GAA Club’s footsteps last year.
The award – run by the Celtic Ross Hotel, The Southern Star and c103 – will be presented to representatives of the club at a gala banquet in the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, on Saturday, January 9th, when the overall Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Year will be announced.
Meanwhile, Timoleague native Bertie Smith (64), the current President of the Munster Rugby Branch, has been announced as the latest inductee into the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Hall of Fame.
Smith is a particularly appropriate winner of this award after a year that saw such an exciting Rugby World Cup, and the West Cork man’s association with the sport goes back to the early 1970s.
Smith played with Bandon and Cork Con, before making his full Munster debut in 1975, and he featured for the province against Australia in 1976, while also playing on the first Ireland B team (now called A) against France in ’75.
He went on to have a distinguished career as an international referee that included taking charge of a Five Nations game (Scotland v Wales in 1997), Argentina v Australia, and he was also touch judge for European Cup finals.
Smith was also a talented athlete who won Munster and national titles, while he coached Argideen Rangers to the 2005 county intermediate hurling title.
Earlier this year he became President of the Munster Rugby Branch. Smith will be presented with his Hall of Fame award at the banquet on January 9th.
• Check out next week’s Southern Star when we announce the winner of the Celtic Ross West Cork Youth Sports Star of the Year.