Inspiration from Lisheen

RioLisheen, a small village in west Cork provides inspiration as the O’Donovan brothers – students and rowers – entertained and thrilled the nation over the past week.  Their interviews – free from the usual clichés – delighted us.  Some turns of phrase captured the imagination and even became tee-shirt slogans.  The instant classic “Pull like a dog” epitomised their grit as they dug deep and gave it their all in the final 500m.  “I kept thinking if we keep rowing well and pulling hard we can win a medal,” Gary remembered. “And even if we don’t, we did everything we could to give ourselves the best opportunity.”   Read the full article in the Irish Times

Former Olympian Neville Maxwell in the RTE studio was very emotional post-race about the significance of their success for sailing.  Pre-race he had spoken about the build-up of lactic acid and it’s impact on the rowers.  We saw how they pulled through the pain barrier to win silver as they had learnt from their coach in Skibbereen (from the Irish Times):

Paul tells a story of how, when they were learning to row, Dominic told them nothing of lactate build-up. The pain in your legs and arms is because you’re not doing it right, he would say. So they drove through the agony – and when they discovered it was a physical thing they were already used to it.

However it is only when viewing this footage of their post race recovery as Gary struggled to get over to Paul that you see the full impact of that build-up and how they had nothing left in the tank.

While we were enthralled by their personalities in the build up to and after their final heroics, it was also clear from their words how much they love their sport and their pride and delight in being part of the Olympics team and representing Lisheen, Skibbereen and Ireland on the world stage.  It is also clear that their success was built on hard work, determination and that never say die attitude that drove them to this medal and will continue to drive them on to further success.

It is their type of attitude, dedication and winning mentality that I hope to see replicated in Munster for the new season.


Anticipation is building and I am looking forward to my trip to Waterford next Friday night for the pre-season game against Zebre before the trip to Cork the following weekend to see Donncha and Worchester.  The new season brings the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, park last season’s disappointments and to look forward to seeing Peter O’Mahony back on the pitch, the visit of the Maoris in November and the return of Ronan O’Gara albeit in the visitors changing room when we welcome Racing Metro to Thomond. A return of the fortress Munster mentality on and off the pitch will also be welcome as the home defeats proved costly in the past two European Cup seasons.  The lads at ThreeRedKings have some great initiatives to help with the contribution from the terraces. You can see details here

While there is a lot of attention on the new Director of rugby (worth listening to his interview from Newstalk) the new defence coach Jacques Nienaber interviewed in the Irish Examiner spoke about the attitude of the players and “their refusal to be defeated

Equally encouraging was the interview with Conor Murray who spoke in the Irish Times about the “new philosophy, a new voice. There’s a lot of emphasis on physicality and dominating your opposition, which is very South African.”

Time will tell, and we will remember that new systems take time to settle in and that Joe Schmidt was not an instant success at Leinster but it was encouraging to read from a recent interview with Rassie:

I think I would be naive to think that if we don’t show massive, massive improvements from last year, I don’t think people will accept us saying that, ‘We are trying hard, we’re improving slowly and we’ll get there’,” he insists….

“I don’t want to have the standard answer of saying, ‘Here, we are inheriting a squad’. I don’t want to say that.”

Some final thoughts about the inspiration from Lisheen.  I  hope that we will see the brothers at a Munster game to give them the reception they deserve as we had the opportunity to applaud David Rodisha after the 2012 Olympics and boxer Andy Lee with his World Champioship belt (Dec 2014)  And maybe instead of yelling “heave” when the maul is formed we could shout at the lads to “pull like a dog”!


An instant catchphrase, immortalised on a tee shirt by the Hairy Baby company

In the below video where the O’Donovan brothers met the Kearneys Paul also shows his ruthless competitive nature – that brotherly bonds will not be a consideration if an alternative rowing partner would give him a better chance of success.  That strive for excellence will drive both rowers onwards and I look forward to following their progress and seeing the impact of their success on funding for and participation in the sport they love.  Kudos also to the ladies pair of Sinead Lynch / Claire Lambe and single skulls Sanita Puspure whose efforts contributed to an excellent return for the Irish rowing team in Rio.

I enjoyed these articles from the Huffington Post who wrote that the brothers deserve gold for this hilarious interview while the Southern Star listed 10 of their favourite quotes (to date!)  

In the coming week another excellent athlete whose dedication and hard work deserves medal success is Annalise Murphy who is well placed heading into the medal race on Monday when she hopes to improve on her 4th place finish from London 2012.  (Updated: Congrats on the silver medal!)

Similarly hopes are high for Rob Heffernan while I am sure some other Irish Olympians will delight us in the coming week and we will become couch experts in badminton, sailing, diving, etc!  It is so disappointing for the boxers who also put in great efforts only to fall foul of the judges. 

Finally the rugby 7s seemed to be a great success in the Olympics and hopefully both Irish 7s teams will build on their development this season to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Updated October 6th: Delighted to meet the brothers when I was in the audience for the recording of “Know The Score” and to get the opportunity to tell them how they inspired me to write this blog.  During the show they revealed how disappointed they were to be beaten to the gold medal in the final.  It sounds like they are motivated to go one better next time!  In the meantime they are adapting to their new found fame and the accompanying huge demand for photos!  The show will air in December and will be worth watching for the out-takes alone as Paul had us in stitches re-shooting one particular question multiple times (he had jumped in with the answer before the question was finished and the powers that be required that to be redone!)!   


With Gary and Paul on the set of Know the Score, thanks to Jen for taking the photo for me

It was nice not to be dwarfed by the brothers, unlike my photos taken over the years with Munster forwards: Donncha, CJ, Paulie and Quinny! 

Also worth mentioning the tee shirts launched to fundraise to improve the facilities at Skibbereen Rowing Club, see more details here


Commemorative tee shirts as a fundraiser for Skibbereen Rowing Club



2 comments on “Inspiration from Lisheen

  1. Hi Gayl

    Looking forward to the new season – like you. I am hoping to be at the Worcester match on Cork as I will be over in West Cork then.

    So very disappointed I didn’t see the O’Donovan brothers’ race – I was at a meeting and because I am in England, I can’t watch it on RTE playback 😦 But I have seen some of their interviews. They are good lads.

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