#Rowing: Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan have been honoured at the Irish Youth Foundation Excellence in Sport Awards. The world champions in the lightweight pair received their awards at the charity event hosted by golfer Padraig Harrington on Monday night in Dublin.
Other recipients included rugby great Paul O’Connell, European gold medal winning sprinter Gina Akpe-Moses, father-and-son horse racing duo Aidan O’Brien and Joseph O’Brien, World Rugby Referee of the Year Joy Neville and Olympic boxer Michael Carruth.
Lions rugby coach, Warren Gatland, the Dublin Gaelic football team and the Irish Show Jumping Team were also honoured.
“This is the first national recognition award we’ve received since the World Championships and it means an awful lot to us,” O’Driscoll said. “It’s nice to reflect on your achievements and we’re delighted to be recognised. It will keep us going for a while, now that we’re back into the hard slog of winter training.
“It’s also nice to have rowing recognised, because it’s such a great sport. You can take it up at any age and it’s such good fun. Anyone, young or old, can jump in a boat!” he said.
The rowing stars were interviewed on stage at the ceremony by RTÉ sports presenter Joanne Cantwell, who asked what they had done differently this year to achieve their world level success.
“We had a bit more belief in ourselves and to put it simply, we didn’t want to come fourth again. We wanted to win a medal at every regatta,” O’Driscoll said.
“We focused on overcoming our doubts and giving it everything because there’s no point in going out there if you think you can’t do it or you’re not 100 per cent committed and I think that’s something all the sports people in the audience could identify with.”
Speaking about sharing the stage with other sports stars, the Skibbereen oarsman said: “It was great to be up there with people like Paul O’Connell. He’s a living legend and when he stood up to speak, the whole room just went quiet. He was a very inspirational speaker and he talked about the fact that since he’s retired, he only remembers good things about his sports career, even though he probably found it all very challenging at the time. So it was great to hear insights like that.”
O’Driscoll said that he and O’Donovan were honoured to receive the award from such a worthwhile organisation.
“We got a real insight into the work of the Irish Youth Foundation at the awards and when you hear about the hardship some young people experience, it’s shocking. It makes you feel so privileged and I’m glad that sport can be a positive outlet for so many young people.”
All proceeds from the black tie fundraising event go toward the Irish Youth Foundation’s work with children and young people living in disadvantaged circumstances. The charity works primarily in the areas of homelessness, after-school education, primary-to-secondary school transition and skills and employability. Last year the Excellence in Sport Awards raised over €100,000.