Gary and Paul O'Donovan ‘overwhelmed’ by welcome
Olympic medallists say bowl of cereal was first thing they ate when they got home
Paul and Gary O’Donovan with the steak and spuds presented to them from Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan. Photograph: Inpho
Olympic silver medallists, Gary and Paul O’Donovan spoke of their astonishment at the reception they have received in west Cork since returning home from Rio de Janeiro where they narrowly missed out on gold in the lightweight double sculls.
The brothers from Lisheen in west Cork arrived at their base at Skibbereen Rowing Club to a tremendous reception from friends and neighbours as they proudly displayed their silver medals at a press conference.
Flanked by their coach Dominic Casey and Rowing Ireland’s high-performance coach Morten Espersen, Gary and Paul spoke of their surprise at the reception they had received and their hope that their success in Rio would encourage others to take up rowing.
“Which camera do I look at it?,” began Gary to loud laughter when asked about the reception that they received after arriving into Cork Airport on Sunday night from Rotterdam where Paul had won gold in the Lightweight Single Sculls at the World Championships on Saturday.
“It was overwhelming – people were still sending us messages as we were boarding the plane in Rotterdam, telling us there were going to be huge crowds. We got messages from the lads in the club telling us there were buses coming up from Skibbereen and it was going to be insane,” Gary said.
“After we landed the pilot invited us into the cockpit as we were going through the water cannons on the tarmac at Cork Airport and he told us that as he was landing, he could see the crowds at the other side of the airport and he said ‘Lads, it’s going to be huge’ and really it is overwhelming.”
Paul explained that travelling all the way down from Cork Airport through towns and villages such as Innishannon, Bandon, Ballinascarthy, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery and Leap, and then into Skibbereen, people were out to greet them with flags and messages of congratulations.
“We had a bowl of cereal when we got home,” Paul said.
“Christ, it’s hungry work, celebrating and waving at people. The Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery had a bonfire blazing and as we drove past, we stuck our hands out the window and they gave us a bag of sandwiches – we were delighted!”
“We never thought this would happen. We were just being ourselves and talking s**te, answering questions and then it all escalated pretty fast but what harm – it’s all good for the club and for the sport – it’s just a reflection of what it’s been like for us for the last few years down here.”
With timing almost as perfect as their rowing stroke, Gary took up the theme: “That’s why we were so happy – there was such a good atmosphere for us here when we left for Rio and we were delighted to be able to keep it going by coming back with medals.”
Thousands are expected to turn out on Monday evening in Skibbereen when the two brothers will parade through the town on an open-top bus before proceeding to the Fair Field in the town where they will be interviewed by RTÉ’s Jackie Hurley about their achievement in winning silver in Brazil.