EOGHAN Barry is a teenager of few words.
‘Grand,’ and ‘Fine’ being two of his favourites.
He was more than grand and fine in Fermoy on Sunday week when his smile rivalled the glare of the summer sun.
This was the day the Lisheen teenager (15) had waited for. He rowed in his first competitive races for Skibbereen Rowing Club as his remarkable story reached another important milestone.
Eoghan was born with upper limb deficiency on his right hand side where his arm stops a couple of inches below his elbow – but this hasn’t held him back.
His coach Richie Keating describes him as ‘incredible’ and with ‘no fear’ and possessing a ‘great attitude.’
Since Eoghan took an interest in rowing while at Lisheen National School, he always dreamed of racing, but developing a prosthetic arm to help him row is an ongoing challenge.
Step by step, they’re getting there.
‘One of the difficulties is creating a prosthetic that works for rowing,’ Richie Keating explains.
‘He has one attachment for a prosthetic that didn’t work because of the pulling nature of rowing, and it kept breaking.
‘He couldn’t row in competitions because he might get a few yards down the course and it would break.’
The design is continually being tweaked and improved, helped also by local firms, and the addition of a leather harness around his shoulder that connects to the prosthetic is another step in the right direction.
‘It’s about taking little steps all the time,’ his mother Ellen explains.
‘We’ve looked in Ireland, England, France, other countries to see if someone has a solution but we’ve found no one else with a similar story.’
This process has advanced to the stage where Eoghan was able to race competitively for the first time, and he took to the water at the Fermoy Regatta on Sunday.
It was a special moment for him and all who have helped on his journey.
In a double with Cathal O’Donovan, the Skibbereen duo finished third. Then Eoghan joined his childhood friends – Oisin Boyle, Eoin Murran and Alan Cotter – in a junior 15 quad and they came second.
‘It was fantastic to see,’ Ellen said.
‘He wouldn’t let on a bit – but you’d know by him that he was happy.
‘He is a man of very little words but you know by the smirk on his face that he was thrilled and delighted.’
While he has been training for the last few years he was never able to race and instead he coxed a lot with Skibbereen, but Fermoy was his chance to show what he can do. It was a big step forward.
Living on the same road in Kilkilleen with one half of the world lightweight pair champions, Shane O’Driscoll, and not too far from the O’Donovan brothers, Eoghan doesn’t have to look too far for inspiration.
But now his resolve, determination and positive attitude is inspiring others too.
‘We still need to get the attachment finished to get him fully competitive,’ Richie explains. ‘Someone out there might have access to something that can help Eoghan.
‘The next step is keeping it on his upper arm more securely without restricting the elbow movement. Your biceps will enlarge when you put pressure on.
‘We have a shoulder harness that comes down to meet the prosthetic and we have to join the two together in the fashion where there is mobility and it will stay on at the same time.
‘We are 90 per cent there.’