Thursday 29 September 2016

Modest masterstroke wins hearts and minds

Published 13/08/2016 | 02:30

Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate after finishing second in the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls. Photo: Getty Images
Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate after finishing second in the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls. Photo: Getty Images

Not only have the O'Donovan brothers made history by taking silver in Rio - becoming our first rowers to win a medal - they have also struck gold with a new nugget for the Irish sporting lexicon.

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Since 1985, one great exhortation echoed down the decades. It involved four words, one of which was Anglo-Saxon, and enquired: "Where's your f****ing pride?" Ciaran Fitzgerald's impassioned plea reignited the spent coals of his rugby team-mates, inspiring them to defeat England 13-10. 

Brothers Gary and Paul have employed their own incantation for success without encroaching on the profane: "Close the eyes and pull like a dog." And what a dog! The self-effacing pair also conjured up another immortal phrase during the week, making light of the trying conditions by saying: "We're well used to a bit of wind…"

Again yesterday, they had little thought for their own achievement, preferring to dwell on how it might inspire youngsters to get involved in rowing, saying, "There's plenty of people out there with two arms and two legs"- as if it were the most natural thing in the world to stroll into the hall of fame. Plenty may indeed have arms and legs, but few indeed have hearts big enough to carry the hopes of a nation.

Far from showboating, they actually expressed a little disappointment: "We're dreading going home - Mick Conlan said he'd box the head off us if we didn't get the gold," said Gary. Claire Lambe and Sinead Lynch also excelled by becoming the first Irish women rowers to make an Olympic final.

When Tolstoy wrote "There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth," he might have had these two unique Corkmen in mind. Yes, some may be born great, and some may achieve greatness, but it seems there's another more modest breed of hero, simply happy enough to hail from Skibbereen.

A Fr Ted twist to the Olympic ticket scandal

The Olympic ‘touting’ debacle has taken another bizarre twist. Now the Olympic Council of Ireland’s official ticket agent, PRO10, claims that the Irishman arrested in Brazil over the alleged illegal sale of tickets for the Rio games was simply acting for them all along.

He was just collecting the tickets for distribution to clients. Nothing to see here. Move along. As Fr Ted Crilly might say: “The tickets were just resting in my account.”

Except the explanation raises further questions for the OCI and the PRO10 agency, which was contracted as its official authorised ticket reseller.

Principal among them is why this couldn’t have been divulged days ago. Wouldn’t that have been the easiest route to take? Whatever about the Brazilian and Olympic authorities conducting their investigations, why is the OCI carrying out an inquiry if the reason is so simple?

Minister for Transport and Sport Shane Ross will certainly be relieved. He has been so slow in intervening in the controversy that the next Olympics would have come around by the time he finally got some answers.

The minister is so concerned about a matter that has damaged the country’s international reputation that he is waiting until he gets to Brazil this weekend to ask for the OCI to add an independent outsider to its all-in-house line-up of members of its tickets investigation.

Regardless of the excuses put forward, the Oireachtas Sport Committee will still have to probe this farce and make sure that public concerns are assuaged.

Irish Independent

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