‘Surreal’ experience watching son make Irish sporting history, says mother

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Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan on the podium following their Olympic win (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan on the podium following their Olympic win (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

The mother of Olympic gold medal winner Paul O’Donovan said it was a “surreal” experience watching her son make Irish sporting history.

Trish O’Donovan said it was “fantastic” to see Paul and Fintan McCarthy land Ireland’s first ever Olympic gold in rowing.

Mrs O’Donovan said it was a bittersweet moment, as her other Olympic-winning son Gary had missed out on competing in Tokyo.

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate victory in the lightweight men’s double sculls (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate victory in the lightweight men’s double sculls (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

“It was surreal, it was very good. It was history in the making yet again, so it was fantastic to be part of it,” she told BBC Ulster.

Earlier, Irish president Michael D Higgins hailed the duo, from Skibbereen in Co Cork, for their “tremendous achievement” in winning the lightweight double sculls in Toyko.

Mrs O’Donovan, who was prevented from travelling to Tokyo because of restrictions, said Paul may have to delay homecoming celebrations as he has to isolate on his return.

“It will be difficult to say, because with Covid and restrictions and I think he might have to self-isolate for a few weeks when he gets back and will go into hiding,” she said.

“It will be the same Paul anyway.”

It is five years since Paul and Gary won silver at the Olympics in Rio.

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Gary, who is a reserve team member this year, lost his seat to Fintan in 2019.

“It was very difficult but it wasn’t as if it was sprung on them, it was the way sport is, you have to be the fastest two to get on the boat, so it’s Fintan’s day,” Mrs O’Donovan added.

“That’s the way it is.”

Their victory came a day after Ireland won their first medal of the Olympics when Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty took bronze in the final of the women’s rowing fours.

President Higgins tweeted: “After the magnificent success in women’s rowing yesterday, today we celebrate Ireland’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing, won so deservedly by Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls.

“Theirs is a tremendous achievement, which gives great inspiration to young people and aspiring athletes all over Ireland.”

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The gold is Ireland’s first since boxer Katie Taylor won in London 2012, and the country’s 10th overall in summer Games.

There were celebrations overnight in Skibbereen.

At the McCarthy house, Fintan’s parents, Tom and Sue, spoke of their pride.

“It’s so overwhelming,” Mr McCarthy told RTE.

“Absolutely delighted. They’ve worked so hard and they were pushed and they delivered and it’s amazing.”

Fintan’s mother added: “There are no words to describe it. Pride just doesn’t cover it, it is so much more than that.

“We hoped beyond hope that they would (win). They were on form, they’ve been on form all season and it seems that no-one could touch them. So we just hoped that that would be the case again today and they didn’t let us down.”

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan’s gold is Ireland’s first since boxer Katie Taylor won in London 2012 (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan’s gold is Ireland’s first since boxer Katie Taylor won in London 2012 (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has praised the “extraordinary victory” in Dublin today.

“In addition to the extraordinary performance of our four women yesterday, I think it’s a tremendous day to celebrate,” Mr Martin said.

“It really has struck home at the hearts, and lifted the Irish people.

“I had a chance to speak to Paul’s father this morning. He’s thrilled.

“The way they carry themselves speaks volumes for their families and their communities and where they spring from.

“They represent Ireland with great dignity and we’re very proud of their achievements and we look forward to some more fine moments in the Olympics.”

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