Saturday 22 July 2017

'Make sure you enjoy it' - O'Donovan brothers turn focus on next generation of Olympians

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

IRELAND'S Olympic rowing heroes today urged youngsters involved in sport to show passion and commitment in their chosen activity.

The plea came as Gary (23) and Paul (22) O'Donovan admitted they were "totally overwhelmed" by the scale of their welcome home to west Cork.

The brothers arrived back at Cork Airport on Sunday evening from their heroics at the Rio Olympics and then the World Rowing Championships in the Netherlands.

They arrived back to their native Skibbereen and Lisheen in the early hours of the morning - complete with Garda escort and through a route lit by bonfires and cheering crowds.

Multiple west Cork towns and villages had erected special roadside tributes to the Rio heroics of the brothers - must involving crossed oars.

Today, the brothers were feted at Skibbereen Rowing Club - complete with steak and spuds pizza in honour of their quirky TV interviews from Rio

Olympic heroes Gary and Paul O’Donovan pose with ‘steak and spuds’ after they arrived at Cork Airport last night. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Olympic heroes Gary and Paul O’Donovan pose with ‘steak and spuds’ after they arrived at Cork Airport last night. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The brothers will be honoured tonight in Skibbereen with an open-top bus parade with more than 10,000 people expected to attend the 7pm event.

Today, the brothers urged youngsters involved in Irish sport to realise that passion and commitment are more important than access to high tech sports facilities.

"Be passionate about what you are doing - make sure you love what you are doing," Paul said.

"Make sure you enjoy it. If you are not enjoying it, try to make your training and your sport enjoyable."

Gary warned that, particularly for younger athletes, having fun while engaged in sport was the critical factor.

"Bring your friends with you. When we started rowing, we brought our friends out with us.

"We couldn't wait to have our friends out here with us because we thought we'd have much more fun.

"People mention success - but when you are 10 years old and you start sport you are only thinking about having fun."

"If you are having fun and enjoying yourself, you will become successful. It will all happen naturally."

The brothers stressed that while clubs like Skibbereen RC would benefit from better facilities through better State support, the key asset they have is the passion and commitment of their members.

They insisted their Olympic and world championship success won't change them - Paul returns to college at UCD next month while Gary is hoping to start a Masters degree in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in October.

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