Best sporting moments of the year: O’Donovan and McCarthy a World apart in Racice

The Irish lightweight double sculls duo proved yet again just why they are the best at what they do

Rowing – World Championships, Racice, Czech Republic, September 24th

We know rowing isn’t easy. It stretches the sinews in the muscles, bursts the lungs. Except, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy – moving in tandem in their lightweight double sculls and gliding along the waterways – have turned it into an art form, defying physics to make it look oh so easy.

O’Donovan, bearded and with long hair unfurled so that it touched his shoulders, and McCarthy again showcased their dominance over one and all in their chosen discipline when completing the 2,000 metres of the straight run on the waters of Labe Arena on the outskirts of Prague to cross the finishing line first to the sound of the klaxon.

In this latest exhibition of their mastery over all others, the Olympic champions started slowly – sitting in sixth place through 500 metres – before increasing speed and picking off one crew after another so that a full boat length separated them from runners-up Italy, with Ukraine pipping Switzerland for bronze. O’Donovan, a five-time world champion, and McCarthy won in an impressive six minutes 16.11 seconds, three seconds clear of the Italians.


Their hard work on the water has earned O’Donovan and McCarthy their gold medals but the post-race interview has become a ritual of keeping matters lighthearted without focusing too much on the hard training programme that has made the men from Skibbereen the most dominant pairs in world rowing.

“You’re simply unbeatable,” offered David Gillick in RTÉ's post-race interview to the pair, starting with O’Donovan.

“Oh, it’s fine,” responded O’Donovan.

“Is that it?”

“Yeah,” replied O’Donovon, briefly nipping away from the Q&A so that he could get a tricolour to wrap across the shoulders of himself and McCarthy.

Cool as a breeze, the pair of them.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times