O'Donovan brothers welcomed home to Skibbereen

Gary, left, and Paul O'Donovan with their medals outside the boathouse at the Skibbereen Rowing Club
Gary, left, and Paul O'Donovan with their medals outside the boathouse at the Skibbereen Rowing Club

Thousands have thronged the streets as they prepared to welcome home Ireland's Olympic silver medal winning rowers.

The town of Skibbereen in Co Cork at least doubled in size as well-wishers from around the country flooded in to applaud brothers Gary and Paul O'Donovan.

They claimed the country's first Olympic honours in the sport amid predictions they could go on to dominate the sport for years to come. The Rio lightweight double sculls silver medalists said they had been overwhelmed by the support.

Paul O'Donovan, 22, said: "It's a complete shock.

"It's all good for the sport and for the community down here. It was kind of a reflection of what it's been like the last couple of years. That's why we are so happy."

The pair are from Lisheen, near Skibbereen, in west Cork.

On Saturday, Paul added to his Olympic silver by winning gold at the men's single lightweight sculls at the world championships in Rotterdam.

They arrived at Cork airport on Sunday night to a hero's welcome.

Gary O'Donovan said: "It was overwhelming.

"People were here and sending us messages saying you don't know what you're in for, there's going to be huge crowds and just before we got on the plane in Rotterdam we got a WhatsApp message from the boys in the club saying there were buses coming up from Skibbereen and we were like.. 'this is going to be insane'."

The pair learned their skills on the Ilen near Skibbereen under the tutelage of coach Dominic Casey and while Paul always harboured ambitions of an Olympic medal it was only four years ago that Gary made the decision to take it seriously.

Their father Teddy told Ireland's national broadcaster RTE it was great to be in Rio to see his sons "creating history."

He said: "It is going very well. It was brilliant to be there and see them creating history.

"To see them to move on to see the storm that they are making internationally."

They will now return to their college studies and their father said normality would be forced on them.

Bus loads of supporters arrived from all over Cork and nearby counties for the hour-long homecoming.

Teddy added: "It is brilliant to be back in your home."