Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.42 2 Aug 2021


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A ‘retrospective public homecoming’ will be organised in Cork for Ireland’s Olympic medallists when restrictions allow, according to the chair of Skibbereen Rowing Club.

Gold medallists Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy arrived back in Ireland yesterday.

The four members of the women's rowing team - Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty (the latter of whom is also from Skibbereen) - are also back home in Ireland with their bronze medals.

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Celebrations were, however, a bit more low-key and muted than usual given the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Skibbereen Rowing Club chair Violet Hayes told Newstalk Breakfast they plan to make up for that later.

'Retrospective homecoming' planned for Skibbereen's Olympic medallists later this year

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She said: “All the athletes are safely home - they haven’t seen their families for over seven weeks, which is very usual for the Olympics.

“There were the traditional West Cork bonfires… that was really all there was, because we’re so conscious of the COVID restrictions that are in place.

“What our plan is is to have what we’ll call a retrospective public homecoming, hopefully in the autumn.”

Ms Hayes said a West Cork bonfire is a welcome home for the athletes - a “beacon of light”.

She said everyone in Ireland - including in Cork - has had a difficult 18 months, but we’re “so nearly there” thanks to vaccination.

She said: “The 2016 homecoming was something that will live long not just in Skibbereen and West Cork memories, but I think the country’s memories - it was iconic.

“Unfortunately, at the moment we can’t do that - but maybe we’ll have something bigger and better when we’re allowed to do so. Hopefully, the way things are going, that will be before the end of the year.”

In the meantime, locals have been putting up lots of flags, bunting and cutouts around the town to celebrate the win - with Ms Hayes describing Skibbereen as “like Killarney on a Munster final day”.

Main image: Irish rowers with their gold and bronze medals, (left to right) Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Paul O'Donovan, Fintan McCarthy, Aifric Keogh and Eimear Lambe, at Dublin Airport following their return from the Olympics in Tokyo. Picture by: Damien Eagers/PA Wire/PA Images

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