President hosts Olympics rowers Paul and Gary O’Donovan

Higgins praises athletes’ ‘authenticity of commitment’ and ’extraordinary’ Skibbereen Rowing Club

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins meet rowers Gary O’Donovan (L) and Paul O’Donovan (R). Photograph: The Irish Times

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins meet rowers Gary O’Donovan (L) and Paul O’Donovan (R). Photograph: The Irish Times

 

President Michael D Higgins praised the “authenticity of commitment” of Olympic rowers Paul and Gary O’Donovan at a reception for them and the Skibbereen Rowing Club on Saturday.

Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina said the occasion at Áras an Uachtaráin gave them the opportunity to celebrate the “vital contribution” of the club “which has been so evident in the performance of the Irish team at every major regatta”.

The O’Donovan brothers won silver at the Olympics last summer, while the Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll from the club won gold at the World Championships in Florida in September.

Mr Higgins said Skibbereen Rowing Club was “an extraordinary club” that, since its foundation, “has achieved so much, and which includes in the most recent period the great achievements of Paul and Gary O’Donovan at the 2016 Olympics”.

“They very fact that it is today that we are celebrating has an easy explanation,” the President said.

“It is a testament to their commitment and dedication, that the O’Donovan brothers were unable to attend the reception for Team Ireland which we held here in August 2016 as they were joining their club colleagues Aoife Casey, Emily O’Hegarty, Mark O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll and Fintan McCarthy at the World Rowing Championships.”

Mr Higgins said the O’Donovan brothers had brought Irish rowing “to the attention of the world” and that to see them on the podium collecting their medals last summer was an “enormously proud, uplifting moment for the country”.

The brothers are known for their light-hearted interviews crediting “steak and spuds” and an ability to “pull like a dog” for their Olympic success.

“The authenticity of their commitment, their good humour and the pleasure they so clearly took in their sport lifted the spirits of people not only here at home but also around the world,” Mr Higgins said.

“There was something very special, human and authentic about their account of their effort, their preparation for it, and the honest pleasure of having achieved an excellence that put them together with the best in the world.”