Wednesday 22 November 2017

Famous Five pull like dogs to take home 'bundles of medals' at Euro Championships

Left to right: Mark and (gold) Paul O’Donovan (silver), Shane O’Driscoll (gold), Denise
Walsh (silver), and Gary O’Donovan (silver) arriving home Photo: Doug O’Connor
Left to right: Mark and (gold) Paul O’Donovan (silver), Shane O’Driscoll (gold), Denise Walsh (silver), and Gary O’Donovan (silver) arriving home Photo: Doug O’Connor

Alan O'Keeffe and Ralph Riegel

Cheers echoed around Dublin Airport amid a rapturous welcome for five Irish rowers who scooped 'bundles' of medals at the European Championships.

All five winners are members of Skibbereen Rowing Club - an unprecedented achievement for a single Irish club.

Gold-medal winner Shane O'Driscoll, who took the men's lightweight pairs title with Mark O'Donovan, said: "We were going for the win so we're very happy to get it."

Team-mate Mark, remarking on the friendly rivalry in the sport, said: "We did what we set out to do. And we beat the British."

Denise Walsh won silver for Ireland in the lightweight women's single sculls at the event in the Czech Republic.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," she said.

Gary O'Donovan, who won silver with his brother Paul in the double sculls final, said: "It was a very good day for Skibbereen - all our athletes that went out to race at the European Championships got medals.

"And not only that, Denise and Mark and Shane all got medals at the first World Cup three weeks ago. So that was incredible that they're coming home with bundles of medals.

"We also had Aoife Casey who raced at the Junior European Championships last week who came home with a silver medal. So the past two weeks at Skibbereen Rowing Club have been immense."

Gary's brother Paul said they would all "train away mad" later this week in search of further success.

In Skibbereen, the winners are now known as the Famous Five.

Proud locals said the club's medal haul is now greater than that of many countries.

Skibbereen vowed to roll out the red carpet after arguably the greatest day in its sporting history.

The triumph came less than a year after Gary and Paul O'Donovan took silver medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

A giant television screen installed in Skibbereen ensured the win sparked communal celebrations.

Numerous premises around Skibbereen also erected special TVs to allow local fans to watch the heats, semi-finals and finals.

Skibbereen is now planning a special homecoming for the rowers - and a special civic reception to follow.

Paul and Gary's mother, Trish, who attended the finals, said it was an incredible weekend for Irish rowing.

"I know that Skibbereen is so proud," she said.

"Skibbereen has produced so many champions on the international stage now and the success of our rowers has resulted in a huge interest among young people in taking up the sport," she said.

Paul and Gary's father, Teddy, said it was heartwarming to see a group of youngsters who joined the club together win international honours together.

Irish Independent

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