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TV Wrap - Welcome to Rowing Country, where people get up early in the morning

A review of the coverage of Ireland’s first medal success of the Tokyo Olympics.

Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty pose with their medals.
Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty pose with their medals.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IT’S A TERRIBLE pity we spent so long believing our capacity to thanklessly endure suffering and hardship made us a nation of great Catholics, when in fact it was making us a country of Olympic rowers.  

The fact we didn’t discover our native genius for the sport of rowing is made more unforgivable by the fact it is founded on stroke-pulling, a favoured pursuit of our political class for decades. 

But regardless of how bleary-eyed we may have awoken to it, we are well aware of it now: this is Rowing Country.

And it’s very much for those who get up early in the morning. 

Thus as the clock ticked to 1.50am Irish time, those made of flint and hope tuned in to RTÉ to see if the Women’s Four of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh, and Emily Hegarty could mint Ireland’s first medal of these Games. 

They started slowly.

“Ireland are somewhat cast adrift at the moment”, began George Hamilton’s commentary  in the race’s early stages. “This is the point the Irish team need to dig deep and find something in reserve to push them back into contention.”

Then the quartet found their rhythm and started rolling toward the third-placed British team like thunder: ominously, inevitably. 

It won’t be gold and it won’t be silver but there might just be a bronze for them here if they can maintain that rhythm… 

They are really contending for the bronze medal…

Ireland are up to to fourth and a medal is definitely on the table for them, if they can claim it in the final 500 metres of this race…

And Ireland are now third! Ireland are in the bronze medal position! We’re in the final 250 metres and Ireland are going faster than the British boat…

As they drive forward and leave the British boat behind, history is about to be made…

Ireland are home for third! History is made! 

David Gillick – excelling for RTÉ in Tokyo in his role as Analyst of All Things – plonked a miniature Irish flag in front of Jacqui Hurley in celebration, as the RTÉ host marked the medal win as “a moment in time.”

Later, at 9am and back in Montrose, Peter Collins was marking a more reasonable hour in time to reflect on the victory for those who didn’t watch it live. A link-up with the Irish team allowed them to watch the race back for the first time. “We left it a bit late, didn’t we!?”, laughed Emily.

Eimear’s sister Claire, herself an Olympian in 2016, was alongside Collins and Tim Harnedy in studio.

“It was so much more nerve-wracking being on the other side of it, you’re so out of control. Yesterday I wanted to ring Eimear and throw a load of advice at her, but no, she knows what she is doing. They have all been training so hard for this, they are just an amazing team and I’m so proud of what they have done.”  

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This being a world-class Irish rowing team, it does of course have some Skibbereen representation in Emily Hegarty. “If you throw a stone in Skibb”, said Harnedy, “you’ll probably hit an Olympian.” 

A couple of those Skibb Olympians, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, swept through their semi-final to fix another Irish date with a late-night/early-morning final tomorrow. 

The pair are the nigh-unbackable favourites for the gold medal, but O’Donovan wears the notion of pressure, nerves and success with a kind of affected bemusement. 

“We’ll avoid the partying with the Norwegians for tomorrow night if we can. We were a bit shaky ourselves this morning.

“I suppose, just get the bus home, have the lunch, the supper, a game of scrabble, maybe. The lads are teaching me how to play that. I’m not great with words so I’m learning new stuff all the time.”

“You get the impression the Olympics should be nervous around the lads rather than the other way round”, said Harnedy back in studio. 

Further success looks likely tomorrow morning, but there’s nothing miraculous about these medals. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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