Paul O’Donovan expects mother to be ‘annoyed’ despite winning gold for Ireland

olympics
Paul O’donovan Expects Mother To Be ‘Annoyed’ Despite Winning Gold For Ireland
Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan celebrate winning gold. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy.
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By Dominic McGrath and Nick Mashiter, PA, Tokyo

Olympic champion Paul O’Donovan expects to receive the wrath of his mother when he returns to Ireland with his gold medal.

O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy won a thrilling lightweight double sculls final in Tokyo on Thursday to claim the country’s first Olympic gold medal since 2012.

The pair became the first male Irish gold medallists since boxer Michael Carruth in 1992 after beating Germany by just 0.86 seconds at the Sea Forest Waterway on Thursday.

But 27-year-old O’Donovan admits that achievement may not be enough to earn the plaudits when he returns home to see his mother.

Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy celebrate victory (Danny Lawson/PA)

“I’ve been ignoring her all the while so she’s going to be fairly annoyed, when I get home I’ll get a back of the hand across the face I’d say,” he told RTÉ.

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O’Donovan also became the first Irish athlete to win Olympic gold and silver medals, having finished second in the double sculls with brother Gary in Rio.

The rowers attributed their success to a combination of luck and hard work, reflecting on the journey that brought them and their small Cork town of Skibbereen to sporting success.

“You need a bit of luck. We were born into the place we were born into and there’s a rowing club nearby,” O’Donovan said.

Talking about winning at his sport’s biggest event, a jovial O’Donovan added: “I suppose it’s fine.

“We are just trying to do the best we can and hopefully be the best of the rest of them.”

Looking back on the path from Rio to Tokyo, he said it was “lucky that Fintan was there and was watching and trained really hard and made it into the boat”.

Fintan McCarthy presents Paul O’Donovan with his gold medal. Photo: INPHO.

“Fundamentally, we did a whole lot of training – that’s the main ingredient,” he said.

McCarthy, a physiologist by training, only took up rowing aged 15. He was not particularly interested in sport as a child.

“I don’t think I found any sport I enjoyed until rowing came along,” he said.

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He said the pair were not too fazed by the strong start of the German team: “We always expected them to have a quick start.

“I think we got slightly ahead of the Germans at the 1,500m-mark and then it was all go.”

McCarthy added: “I’ve been chilled out, usually I’d be a bit more nervous but felt really prepared. The expectation doesn’t weigh too heavily on us, we do what we always do – the best we can.”

Next Olympics

The pair are already looking ahead to the next Olympics.

“We’ll stick at the rowing for another few years, anyway. The next Olympics is going to be the last one for our event, so we’ll have to go out with a bang,” McCarthy said.

For O’Donovan, the end of the Olympics also means a return to study – he’s going into his third year of a medicine degree.

“There’ll be no let up,” he predicted.

There were celebrations overnight in Cork after the Skibbereen pair landed Ireland’s first ever Olympic gold in rowing.

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At the McCarthy house, Fintan’s parents Tom and Sue spoke of their pride, along with their plans to decorate their home and bake him an Olympic cake to celebrate his return.

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The duo had set a new Olympic best in the semi-final of six minutes and 05.33 seconds but had to fight for gold.

Germans Jonathan Rommelmann and Jason Osborne were 10 lengths clear after 500m but Ireland slowly closed the gap and managed to edge ahead and were a length in front before the finish line.

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