President Michael D Higgins has congratulated rowers Gary and Paul O’Donovan who won Ireland’s first ever Olympic rowing medal.

The brothers from Skibbereen, Co Cork claimed the silver medal in the men’s lightweight double sculls, just 0.53 seconds behind France, who won in 6:30.70.  

President Higgins said: "On behalf of the people of Ireland, I want to congratulate Paul and Gary O'Donovan on a silver medal today - Ireland's first ever Olympic rowing medal. 

"They have captured the nation's imagination and their skill, determination and positive outlook make them outstanding ambassadors for their sport, and for their community long into the future. 

"Their success today will encourage young men and women all around Ireland to participate in sport and realise that success at the highest level is possible in virtually every sport."

Speaking after the race, the brothers said they had not had a chance yet to come to terms with the win.

They said while they are delighted with their silver medal, they were a little disappointed they did not come away with the gold.

They said: "We’re hugely honoured and so proud to be representing Ireland.

"We’re so proud that people are following us and supporting us and we take great pride in that."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also congratulated the O'Donovan brothers, describing their success as a "wonderful achievement for them personally, their home club and Irish rowing."

He said: "I want to thank them for all the sacrifice and effort they have made to achieve success for Ireland on the world stage."

Minister for Sport Shane Ross described the Skibbereen brothers win as a "wonderful achievement". 

He said: "After a tough start, this is real shot in the arm for Team Ireland and while this is the first rowing medal and our first medal of these games, hopefully there is more to come."

The minister said "it is a great day for Ireland's rowing community, for west Cork and for Ireland." 

Minister of State for Sport Patrick O’Donovan said the brothers "rowed an outstanding race against the best in the world".

Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Denis O'Donovan, a senator from West Cork, said the brothers "have personified the Olympic spirit and won over the whole nation with their positive attitude and unique west cork charm".

The Mayor of the county of Cork Cllr Seamus McGrath said the brothers gave a "heroic and historic performance". He said that he will be hosting a civic reception for Paul and Gary O'Donovan at the County Hall "at the earliest opportunity." 

The brothers are past pupils of Lisheen National School, which this week posted a video thanking the O'Donovans for putting Lisheen on the map.