O’Donovan brothers have led to a ‘surge in interest in rowing’

Rowing boss says success at Rio Olympics has generated a spike in inquiries into the sport

 Ireland’s Paul and Gary O’Donovan  celebrate winning silver medals in rowing at the Rio Olympics. File photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Ireland’s Paul and Gary O’Donovan celebrate winning silver medals in rowing at the Rio Olympics. File photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

 

The success of Irish rowers Gary and Paul O’Donovan at the Rio Olympics has prompted a huge surge in interest in the sport, according to Rowing Ireland chief executive Hamish Adams.

The O’Donovan brothers won Ireland’s first-ever Olympic medals in rowing at the Rio Games.

The brothers, who were given a huge welcome home by supporters in Skibbereen on Monday night, have frequently spoken about how they hope their success in Rio will encourage others to take up the sport.

“There are plenty of people out there with two arms and two legs like the two of ourselves and there’ll be more Olympic champions to come, please God,” said Gary, after they captured the silver medal in the lightweight double sculls competition earlier this month.

Speaking at Skibbereen Rowing Club, where the O’Donovans learned their trade under coach Dominic Casey, Mr Adams said that every Olympics leads to an upsurge in interest in rowing in Ireland, but the success of the O’Donovans had prompted an unprecedented number of inquiries.

“We had planned for this - we have been working with clubs for the last couple of months because there is always a spike in interest in registrations after every Olympics, but this is unprecedented - we couldn’t have dreamed it was going to be this big,” said Mr Adams.

Irish rowers

According to Mr Adams, there are some 3,000 registered rowers in Ireland, attached to some 70 or so clubs.

However, it’s estimated that there are up to 10,000 rowers in the country in total, many of whom row for pleasure rather than competitively.

“We do want to continue growing but we want to do it incrementally because there’s no point in growing 50 per cent overnight,” Mr Adams said.

“But we would still encourage everyone to approach their local club because we are dependent on the clubs [as] it’s not something we can drive overnight from a governing body perspective but we feel if we could grow by 10 per cent next year, we would be doing well.”

Mr Adams said the sport was split virtually 50/50 in terms of male and female participants.

Meanwhile, the O’Donovan brothers will be accorded a civic reception by the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Seamus McGrath, at Cork County Hall on Wednesday, in recognition of their achievement.