A week ago, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy were named as World Rowing Men’s Crew of the Year. The two had been the dominant crew in the competitive lightweight double class in 2021 and won gold – and the hearts of rowing people – at Tokyo 2020.
This is the first time the world governing body has given an Irish crew the estimable title of the best of all the contenders in their sport. And it was given for achievements in an Olympic year.
Imagine if an Irish golfer, rugby player or athlete was honoured in such a way. The wave of acclaim would crash outward through the wider sporting public. There has barely been more than a ripple with Paul and Fintan.
This is a real pity. While this source might have made more of it at the time, there are other media which could and should also have picked up on it and run with it.
To some extent, perhaps the lightweight double is a victim of its own success. Paul and Gary O’Donovan were outstanding media performers in Rio 2016 and its aftermath. They gave the media a hook. Once the crew formation changed and Paul downplayed his media image radically and dedicated himself to his medical studies, the hook was no longer as readily available.
Rowers spend a lot more time training than most other sports people.
A few years ago, Fintan McCarthy and his twin, Jake, did an interview online in which they spoke of how much training they do – and how much more than even top competitors in other sports. Even a club rower in Ireland may have training sessions which run well into double figures each week.
There is such sacrifice of time such dedication to the work needed. Top rowers prioritise this and in Ireland there is an absence of effective promotion when they are available.
The bottom line is that the crew which gave us such pleasure and pride in Tokyo are worth celebrating. The one picture this blog wanted – and paid for – in the run up to Tokyo 2020 was Fintan and Paul (above).
I’ve said it before: this is the Irish Team of the Year. And now, fittingly, the World Rowing Crew of the Year.