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'There had been four female Irish Olympian medallists and we doubled that number in one race'

Ireland’s bronze-medal wining rowers have returned home.

Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe, and Aifric Keogh.
Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe, and Aifric Keogh.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

NOW FOREVER TO be remembered for pulling in the same direction, today’s homecoming finally affords the Irish women’s four a chance to spin off to their own separate spheres. 

Eimear Lambe will be heading home to Cabra, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh to the respective Galway towns of Furbo and Moycullen, while Emily Hegarty will be travelling south to add further to the density of Olympic medalists in Skibereen. 

“We came back training last June and we probably only spent time together”, said Aifric at the crew’ homecoming at Dublin airport. “We haven’t mixed outside of our training group, which has been challenging. So we are all excited to go home, see some school friends and family friends and just see our families.

“Aside from Christmas, we’ve only seen them on the odd weekend here and there. It’s been very challenging to stay occupied. It’s been frustrating, obviously we want to keep everyone safe and there have also been times where we’ve wanted to catch  a breather and get some time away from the group. But we knew the smart thing to do was to try and keep the group as safe as possible and stay in the bubble.” 

They will celebrate with their own friends and families for a couple of weeks and, restrictions permitting, then arrange a celebration together. There’s a road trip around the country in the works, though with Dublin, Galway and Cork represented, there’s some negotiating to be done on the first stop. 

They will forever together in the history books, however: Ireland’s first female Olympic rowing medalists, while Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh are the Galway’s first Olympic medalists. 

“I suppose when you’re training that’s not what you are thinking about”, says Aifric. “Yeah, we are the first Galwegians, but one thing that was made clear to us after was, prior to our race, there had been four female Irish Olympian [medallists] and we doubled that number in one race.

“You don’t even realise that until after, and to see that written down is a bit of a shock, and we’re really proud of it.” 

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These Covid Games were a diminished experience, but the Irish crew have taken away a trove of memories along with their hardware, describing the ovation from the Irish team on return with their medals as “special.” 

“It’s our first Olympics so we didn’t have expectations going in”, says Emily. “We still soaked it all up as we had nothing to compare it to. This was our first experience and we still enjoyed every minute of it. It is potentially one of the most amazing experiences of our life, even if we don’t go again. 

“It is still a massive experience, Covid or not, we got the most out of the experience we could.”

This press interview was their last engagement as a quartet for a while, but judging by the last seven days, they’ll be back in the limelight before too long. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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