Above: Gary and Paul O'Donovan pictured on the open top bus at their Skibbereen homecoming on August 29. Photo: Emma Jervis
An estimated crowd of over 10,000 people descended on Skibbereen town last Monday evening to celebrate the homecoming of Olympic silver medal winners Gary and Paul O’Donovan to their native town, on an unforgettable night that will live long in the memory of all those present.
Skibbereen town was looking resplendent for the occasion as throngs of people, both old and young, from far and near, gathered to pay homage to their local heroes. The town was bedecked with flags and souvenir posters commemorating the success of the Lisheen brothers, who captured the hearts of the nation with their stunning performances and charming manner throughout the Olympic Games.
Skibbereen was a sea of people and a hive of activity on a fun-filled night, as thousands turned out. The brothers, joined by their friends and family, were led through the town in an open top double decker bus by a cavalcade of vehicles and St Fachtna’s Silver Band, much to the delight of their enthusiastic supporters. Pupils of the boy’s former national school, Lisheen NS, sang a specially penned song for their idols. Their colleagues in Skibbereen Rowing Club also escorted the bus through the packed streets. The main event of the evening took place in the Fairfield car park, where dignitaries gathered to pay tribute.
The Olympians were thrilled with their triumphant return to West Cork. Paul, who rowed to individual success in the lightweight sculls in the World Championships last Saturday in Rotterdam, revealed their joy at capturing a silver medal in Rio. “It was a great achievement, a great few weeks for us, a great honour. We will train hard and prepare well for more glory down the line.”
Elder brother Gary summed up their jubilation and pride in representing their country at the Olympics. “It was a great honour to represent our country, our county, West Cork and Skibbereen. It has been an unforgettable experience.”