Thursday 26 April 2018

The quiet lads who are always laughing – and deadly serious about their sport

Profile: The O'Donovan brothers

Paul O’Donovan
Paul O’Donovan
Gary O’Donovan
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

One story about Gary and Paul O'Donovan's introduction to rowing is perhaps prophetic.

The two boys, aged between seven and eight, had been brought to Skibbereen Rowing Club by their father Teddy, himself an accomplished sportsman.

At the time, Skibbereen RC was on an upward curve thanks to international oarsmen from west Cork such as the Coakleys and Harnedys.

One club official, trying to make the two young brothers feel at home in the club, asked them what they would like to do.

"He was told, by Paul I think it was, that they wanted to compete at the Olympic Games," Kenneth McCarthy recalled.

The confidence was noted and very soon Skibbereen RC realised they had two very special talents.

Gary and Paul attended Lisheen National School on the outskirts of Skibbereen before attending secondary school in the town.

Lisheen Principal Catriona O'Driscoll recalls them as quiet, hard-working lads who were always smiling and laughing.

They enjoyed sports such as hurling, Gaelic football and soccer - but rowing was always their first love.

Not surprisingly, they boast a wide circle of friends including fellow Skibbereen RC rower Diarmuid O'Driscoll (22), who opted to join the lads in Rio for the Olympics.

From their late teens, the brothers' focus was entirely on sport. Competing first in quad rowing competitions around Ireland, they swept all before them. When they started competing at double scull level, the success continued. They won a European championship title last year and were ranked to make the Olympic final in Rio despite being amongst the youngest competitors present.

The brothers are close to parents Teddy and Trish, as well as to their extended family of aunts and uncles, including the O'Donovans, Coombs and Doabs. And they are particularly close to their grandmother Mary Doab, with whom they often stay at her Ballincollig home, located, appropriately enough, at O'Donovan Crescent.

Such is the geniality of the family that, according to one story told at Skibbereen Credit Union yesterday, Ms Doab was taken aback when, during a routine drug check during training that happened to occur when the brothers were at her Ballincollig home last year, the testers didn't want to stay for the lavish Irish breakfast offered them.

"The lads are a bit like you've seen on the TV interviews, but don't let the smiles and the laughter fool you," their uncle Peter O'Donovan advised. "They may come across as happy-go-lucky but they are deadly serious about their sport."

Irish Independent

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