History-making Irish rowers won't be bringing the house down

·3-min read

Paul O'Donovan partnered Fintan McCarthy to win Ireland's first ever rowing Olympic gold on Thursday and said it is fortunate for their neighbours there are coronavirus protocols in place otherwise they "would knock down their apartment".

O'Donovan and McCarthy triumphed in the men's lightweight double sculls, an event three-time world champion O'Donovan had taken silver in with his brother Gary in Rio in 2016.

O'Donovan said it was hard to compare the feelings he had in 2016 and now -- "it is a long time ago and I would be hard pressed to remember them" -- and celebrations would be muted, at least in Japan.

Tokyo is under a coronavirus state of emergency with measures such as alcohol banned in bars and restaurants, which have to close by 8pm.

"There is not much celebrating to be done in Japan to be honest," said 27-year-old O'Donovan.

"We will have to be careful with the Covid you know, unfortunately.

"Otherwise, we would go all out and have massive parties.

"We would probably knock down the apartment but fortunately, for the Japanese and our neighbours, that won't be happening this year."

McCarthy -- who partnered O'Donovan when they won the 2019 world title, thereby qualifying for the Olympics -- said their initial celebration would be to eat a proper meal.

"We will have a trip to the dining hall first," said McCarthy.

"We have been waiting all week.

"It will be nice to go there and not keep an eye on what we are eating."

Their celebrations might be restrained but the craic will be mighty back in Skibbereen, West Cork.

"They will be wading through the porter in Skibbereen, it will be flowing down the streets," said O'Donovan.

- 'A great tune' -

O'Donovan, who is training to be a doctor, cited Greek philosopher Heraclitus's saying "A man can never fall into the same river twice" when commenting before the Games on whether they could go one better than in Rio.

However, he was pretty sotto voce when asked about the significance of the victory for him personally.

"To be honest, you don't feel much about it at all, people ask 'has it sunk in yet?' but I don't think they ever do really," he said.

"There is a ceiling on how well and happy you can feel about this type of thing.

"It gives you a boost for sure, but alright, I mean you are not going to explode with excitement and happiness after, you know?"

O'Donovan -- whose brother Gary did travel to Tokyo as reserve -- said his exertions had made singing the national anthem a tough challenge.

"It was good. There is a great tune to it, I really enjoyed it," he said.

"But I was very hot and tired and stuff after the race, so I couldn't concentrate. I could barely get the words out myself.

"To see the flag being raised was beautiful."

Even staying in contact with his family has been a burden for O'Donovan -- McCarthy by contrast had already called his family as he went through doping control.

"I just ignore everyone all the time," said O'Donovan.

"I got a capacity to send two text messages per day no matter the circumstances.

"That's about it, I leave the phone in my pocket.

"They are not too happy at home, but that's how it is."

pi/mw

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