'It doesn’t really bother us that we are in an Olympic final': All Irish eyes on Rio rowers today

Team Ireland are through to two rowing finals today.

“IT IS JUST another race – we will go from start to finish as fast as we can.”

A solid, no-messing plan from Gary and Paul O’Donovan who go for Ireland this morning in the Olympic men’s lightweight double sculls final.

The west Cork pair – who are quickly becoming the Irish story of Rio 2016 – finished third in their semi-final yesterday and are serious medal contenders today.

Gary and Paul O'Donovan Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Don’t be fooled by their post-race charm on national television. These brothers have ambitions, not just for themselves but for their sport in Ireland.

“It doesn’t really bother us that we are in an Olympic final,” Gary, 23, told reporters.

 ’Twas kind of in our heads all year that it was going to happen. I know we didn’t act like it. We kind of kept it cool. But it is more natural now that we have made it- thankfully.

But they’re remaining coy about their chances.

“Ah sure we are in a final so we have the same chance as everyone else. We will just go as fast as we can and if there are boats faster than us, sure what can you do.

“Its hard to tell how the race is going to go. This is an Olympic final and it will probably be different to any race we have ever rowed so we will do our best.”

As they prepare for the biggest race of their lives, they are aware that everyone back home is talking about them – thanks to an overwhelmingly positive reaction to their RTÉ interview after their first race on Monday.

“’Tis good publicity anyway,” according to Gary, before Paul, at 22 his younger sibling by a year, picks up the line:

“We love the sport of rowing and would do anything we can to promote it and represent and we are delighted we can be good ambassadors for the sport. Not just for Skibbereen but for the sport as a whole and its a huge honour.

“‘Tis brilliant for the two girls to qualify,” he added, referring to Sinéad Lynch and Claire Lambe who will race today in the lightweight double sculls final.

The pair are also dreaming of that podium.

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Obviously delighted to get over the semi-final hurdle yesterday, they are now relishing the tag of underdogs.

“There are crews we will have raced before. Obviously they are all in pretty good shape and good form at the moment but they are not unbeatable. We are all weighing in at 57 kilos. There are no superhumans out there, so we are ready to take them on,” says Lambe.

Her partner, 38-year-old Donegal woman Lynch (previously Sinéad Jennings) then told reporters:

The big thing is to focus. We’re delighted and happy and I think it’s really important that we get to celebrate because this doesn’t happen often.

“But when we get on the bus we’ll calm down a lot and make sure our recovery is really good, get our lunch, get our dinner and get an early night.”

Claire Lambe and Sinead Lynch celebrate qualifying for tomorrow's final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The women have extra motivation too, if they need to call upon it on Irish rowing’s big day.

Their teammate and flatmate in Rio, Sanita Puspure, narrowly missed out on her final earlier this week.

“She deserves to be in the final. She is such a class athlete and she did ask us to go out there and do it for her [yesterday], and I’m really happy that we could do that as well,” explains Sinéad.

We feel like we’re nearly a three-boat trio. Her hardship is our hardship and she was absolutely jumping up and down with joy with our result. It’s devastating to see what happened to her because she is a world-class athlete.

“She is unbelievable, in every aspect of her sport, so it’s heartbreaking, really. That’s sport, I suppose.”

And according to Claire, there’s a lot of people due credit for Ireland’s rowing exploits in Rio this month.

“Don McLachlan (HP rowing coach) has done a fantastic job in the last four years. He’s coached me from 2013 and I feel like I’ve completely changed as an athlete under his guidance.

“He has brought Sinéad back on the scene and he has really got our double to gel and to peak at the right time. Big credit to him, and the whole team back home in Rowing Ireland.

It’s a community and great support. I suppose we finally deserved some good results after all the hard work everyone has been putting in.

Claire Lambe and Sinéad Lynch race at 2.32pm

Gary and Paul O’Donovan race at 2.44pm

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