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‘We train the same as Gary and Paul. If they can do it, we feel we can do it.'

July 24th, 2017 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Twin power: Jake and Fintan McCarthy pictured after winning the intermediate men's double title at the 2016 Irish Rowing Championships, the biggest race win they've enjoyed together. The Skibb brothers missed out on last weekend's championships as they flew to Bulgaria on Saturday for this week's wo

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The club that gave the world the O'Donovan brothers is also home to another set of brothers who are intent on taking over the world. Aughadown twins Fintan and Jake McCarthy spoke to 

KIERAN McCARTHY ahead of this week's world U23 rowing championships in Bulgaria

JAKE'S not having any of it.

The older twin is pulling rank, using those extra few minutes he will always have.

‘I'm a bit faster than Jake, alright. I usually beat him on the water because I have the better technique,' Fintan says.

‘Ah, I don't know about that ...,' Jake interjects.

‘But he's better on the rowing machine, he's around four seconds faster because he's that bit stronger.'

‘That's better ....'

Honours even, after Fintan's diplomacy. 

But these two brothers make no secret that they're competitive, Jake more so they both agree. 

Jake's competitiveness is the reason the McCarthy brothers flew out to the world U23 rowing championships last Saturday to Bulgaria, where they'll represent Ireland this week in the men's lightweight double sculls – the same boat another set of brothers from the same Aughadown parish have made famous in recent times.

It was Fintan who started rowing first, a full year before Jake. For Fintan it was something to do, a hobby more than anything else. But Jake soon followed, wanting what his brother had.  

‘I'd usually be going training soccer and GAA but when Fintan started training more than me I didn't like it too much!' Jake smiled.

‘I tried rowing then, I liked the competitive edge to it and the racing so I got hooked. 

‘I gave up the ball sports and got over the “round ball syndrome” and “chasing a pig's bladder”, as Dominic (Casey) called it!'

Fintan nods his head.

‘I didn't really play much sport, Jake was always the sporty one, he was a soccer and GAA head, and I didn't really do much so I decided that I better start something, I think we were in third or fourth year in school, so we're actually not at it that long,' he said.

‘I started a year before Jake. He's the more competitive one so he followed me around a year after.

‘For me it was having something to do, I didn't like it that much at first to be honest but once I got into it, that changed. It's a sport that you get out of it what you put into it.'

It didn't take long for the McCarthy's potential to be spotted. Two brothers from Aughadown, rowing with Skibbereen Rowing Club, who are quite talented on the water ... sound familiar?

The tales of young teens Gary and Paul O'Donovan chasing down the then-established seniors of Eugene and Richard Coakley, Timmy Harnedy and Kenneth McCarthy on the Ilen River have been well aired the last 12 months – and the wheel is still turning in Skibbereen Rowing Club.

Now it's Fintan and Jake, 20-year-old twins from Foherlagh near Kilcoe Church who are trying to close in on Gary and Paul.

‘The way the lads looked up to Eugene and Richie, there's the same gap from us to Gary and Paul, so we're chasing them,' Fintan explains.

‘When we were younger Gary and Paul were doing everything that we are doing now, like the world U23s we have this week. This is Jake's first world championships and Gary went to the world U23s for the first time at the same age as Jake so it's good to be able to compare where we are now to where they were back then.

‘We are trying to keep up with them as well as each other so it's a good environment,' Fintan says, and Jake adds, ‘There is a very good competitive mentality in Skibb, we're all trying to beat each other.'

At April's Skibbereen Regatta, the men's Division 1 double sculls final was a best of Skibbereen event, and the final result is an accurate reflection of the current standings.

Gary and Paul O'Donovan won, Shane O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan were 1.6 seconds behind, and in third came Fintan and Jake, 3.6 seconds behind the O'Donovan brothers.

‘Just seeing Gary and Paul's success drives us on, when you see people that you know well doing well it creates an environment where you want to achieve the same as that,' Jake said.

It's the same boat they race in, the Olympic class lightweight men's double sculls.

‘We are not doing anything different to them, we are doing the same training, we are getting the same coaching from Dominic, we are doing exactly what they are doing so in theory we should be able to achieve what they are, eventually. If they can do it, we feel we can do it,' Fintan adds.

That's why the world U23 championships in Bulgaria this week are important, they're a stepping stone that Skibb's most successful rowers before them have taken, Paul winning a bronze in the lightweight single back in 2013.

Fintan, the younger of the twins, has already competed at two world U23 championships, in a single in 2015 and in a four last year that finished fifth in the A final, while this is Jake's first time on the world champs' stage, but he did compete at the world university games last year.

‘Fintan's the one with the experience here, but we're good together in the double when we get it going,' Jake explains.

Preparation hasn't been ideal, Fintan broke his wrist in mid May, but it won't surprise you to learn that these twins have a good understanding of one another.

They both go to UCC, are both going into third year (Fintan studies biological sciences, Jake is a student of economics), they live together in Cork, and they row and train together, too, so they've quite a lot in common.

And even though they're not identical twins (useful hint from Fintan: Jake has the blonder hair), some people still confuse one for the other. 

‘We are basically the same height and weight, even though I am a couple of kilogrammes heavier, so I might be looking to get a kilogramme off Fintan this week; we need to weigh in at 70kgs,' Jake says.

‘We are similar in most senses so that's probably why the double works; we match each other so well.'

The balance is just right, Fintan points out.

‘Because we're twins it's a lot more even between us. I'd say Jake is a bit stronger and I am bit more technical so it's always a good battle when we are out in the single,' Fintan said, admitting that there is a lot more to come from them in the double.

‘We're pretty rough in the double but somehow it goes fast.

‘We're looking to get it a bit more together and smooth, and if we do that we should be in a good place. We always seem to go fast enough even though we're not rowing too well so if we can get it under control we have a good chance of going faster.'

Despite Fintan's broken wrist they've got a good block of training together ahead of this week's championships, even if spending too much time in each other's company leads to a banging of heads. 

‘To be honest, we always fight in the boat, there isn't a day when we aren't giving out to each other but we never get off the water in a mood with each other, it's all forgotten. It's said in the moment and that's it, it doesn't come off the water,' Fintan explained.

‘If you are with people that you don't know that well you might be inclined to keep things to yourself and not hurt their feelings – but we don't have that problem! We just tear into each all the time. 

‘We say what we feel, what we need to work on, what needs to happen and for our long-term improvement that's good.

‘It's effective.'

Jake concurs: ‘We know that we will get the most out of each other and we know how to push each other, what works and what doesn't.'

With everything working they're confident of getting to the A final in Bulgaria this week. That's realistic, the brothers insist.

And 12 months on from their biggest win together – the men's intermediate double at the 2016 Irish championships – the McCarthy brothers are hopeful of more success as they follow in the path of another two brothers from the same parish and the same club who have done quite alright for themselves.

There really is something in that water in Skibbereen, isn't there?

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