O’Donovan brothers row to European Championships silver

Lightweight double pipped by friendly foes Norway at Strathclyde Park on Saturday

Gary and Paul O’Donovan with their European Championships silver medals. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho

Gary and Paul O’Donovan with their European Championships silver medals. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho

 

If you wanted a measure of the popularity of Paul and Gary O’Donovan, the scenes at the end of their final at the European Championships were perfect.

The Ireland lightweight double took silver behind Norway - and then were mobbed by television crews from three different countries, and hordes of photographers and press, while gold medallists Are Strandli and Kristoffer Brun got to pick up what was left.

Norway had finished in bronze-medal place behind Ireland’s silver at Rio 2016, but had only come back together this season. Brun campaigned in a lightweight single for a season.

And then the O’Donovans came calling. Paul takes up the story.

“We thought they might be getting too old for it, and Are took the year off last year. We went over to Oslo and we said ‘Are come back, Kristoffer is hopeless in the single. He hasn’t a hope.’

“God almighty, Are came back and the two of them beat us.”

“We’re regretting that encouragement!” Gary chips in, laughing.

Were the Norwegians annoyed? Not a bit of it. Strandli laughed when he we was asked about it by The Irish Times. “Yes, they came to Olso.

They’re such fun guys. We couldn’t let them dominate this on their own!”

Brun and Strandli had always been the main danger to the O’Donovans in this contest, as they had raced little and might have had an extra gear. And so it proved. They led at halfway, and while Ireland pushed right up on them coming to the line, the Norwegians held on. Italy had challenged Ireland for silver in the last 250 metres, but Ireland produced their customary sprint to consign them to bronze.

The O’Donovans said they had “fun” this season, with a foray to New Zealand and Australia in the early part of the year. Their focus, after a week off, will be on the World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria next month.

“Since our success in Rio, we’ve opened up a whole lot of doors and opportunities for ourselves - like the trip down under and the trip to Henley (Royal Regatta) and things like that,” Gary says.

“Having tried lots of things we realise, hey, rowing is pretty good,”

Paul adds. “We’re happy doing it.”

In the run-up to the O’Donovans’ race, Aoife Casey (19) and Denise Walsh (25) pulled out a fighting performance in their B Final of the lightweight women’s double sculls.

Germany led to halfway, under pressure from Austria and Ireland.

Casey and Walsh then pushed on, pushing up on Germany in the third quarter, so that there was only half a length in it. The Irish then bit further into the German lead. As the crowds roared them on, the Irish pushed up to 40 strokes per minute, but could not quite head Germany, who won by 0.63 of a second.

The second-placing gave the Ireland crew a ranking of eighth in Europe.

Soon afterwards, it was the turn of the most popular rowers in the world.

European Rowing Championships, Day Four (Irish interest) Men Lightweight Double Sculls - A Final: 1 Norway 6:20.85, 2 Ireland (G O’Donovan, P O’Donovan) 6:22.84, 3 Italy 6:23.32.

Women

Lightweight Double Sculls - B Final (Places 7 to 11): 1 Germany 7:11.14, 2 Ireland (A Casey, D Walsh) 7:11.77, 3 Austria 7:15.63.

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