The silver medalists in the Olympic lightweight double sculls – Gary O’Donovan and Paul O’Donovan – have achieved fame locally, throughout Ireland and worldwide, not only because of their athletic prowess on the international stage, but also because of their forthright, down-to-earth, very human and entirely natural way of speaking to the media about their dedication, their work and their hopes. After the Olympic Games, Paul went on to become world champion and to win the gold medal in the competition in Rotterdam.
‘They have energised us all,’ said Bishop Paul Colton, “and we should acknowledge too, at this time, a particular Church of Ireland role in all of this.’ So we should. Skibbereen Rowing Club, which nurtured Gary and Paul O’Donovan, was founded in 1970. One of the three founders of the Club, and a quiet, unsung, volunteer locally is Richard Hosford of the Parish of Abbeystrewry Union. Richard Hosford, together with two other local men, Donie Fitzgerald and Danny Murphy founded the club and it all started from there on the Ilen River.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the rector, the Reverend John Ardis and the parishioners, of Abbeystrewry Parish Church were involved in the homecoming plans and celebrations. The grounds of Abbeystrewry Church and the Parochial Hall are beside the Fair Field where the crowds gathered. The hall served as a backstage and hospitality area, and also as a base for some of the world’s media.
Bishop Paul and Mrs Susan Colton (who have their own home now in the parish) were also present as guests of Skibbereen Rowing Club. Bishop Colton said:
I was really thrilled to be there for the celebrations, as was Susan. I’ve known Richard Hosford for over 40 years. I used to stay at his home place out at Sandycove and his nephew was our best man. His other nephew, Alan’s wife, Ruth, is my secretary. They are good people and what I am really inspired by is to see Richard’s, and his colleagues’ (Donie’s and Danny’s), selfless voluntary work in the local community, their vision and their determination, bearing fruit, in an entirely selfless way, to their great joy and satisfaction, in the achievements of all these other young people, particularly Gary and Paul O’Donovan. It shows what can happen when people from parishes get involved in wider communities, pool ideas, dream dreams, meet a need, and put their heart and soul into it. It’s inspirational!