Two cousins are recovering in hospital in Galway after being rescued by a local fisherman, southwest of Inis Oírr, having spent 15 hours in the water. 

Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn both from Knocknacarra in Galway city, got into difficulty while paddleboarding at Furbo Beach.

They were discovered by a local fisherman clinging to a lobster pot marker buoy, about two miles from Inis Oírr, and around 17 miles away from where they had been last seen.

The pair, aged 23 and 17, survived 15 hours in the water after they were blown out to sea.

It is understood they are well and are receiving treatment at University Hospital Galway.

The two had set out paddleboarding from the beach in Na Forbacha (Furbo) on Wenesday afternoon.

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The alarm was raised just after 10pm last night when they failed to return.

A major search operation had been taking place, involving the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI lifeboats and hundreds of volunteers on land and sea.

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Barry Heskin of the RNLI told RTÉ's News at One that the pair were found in the region of 17 miles away from where they had been last seen.

He said that while they had buoyancy aids on, they were not wearing wetsuits and would have had to endure a dark night with heavy rain and high winds.

Mr Heskin said the woman and teenage girl were taken out of the water by Patrick Oliver, a local fisherman who is a member of the Galway Lifeboat Station.

"It is a truly fantastic result," he said, adding that those involved in the search had battled rain, wind and thunder to help in the operation.

Mr Heskin said "there were a few tears shed" in Galway Lifeboat Station when news came through that the pair had been found.

He paid tribute to the number of people who volunteered to take part in the search, describing it as a testament to residents of the north Clare and Galway Bay area.

"The amount of people on the water is absolutely phenomenal and is testament to the people of north Clare and Galway Bay that have we ended up with this result.

"Once we had so many people on the water we could allocate them to different locations and then we could spread more resources further afield to locations we might not have gotten to til later this afternoon and it might have been so late."

Also speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Divisional Controller at Valentia Coastguard John Draper said that the fact they were keeping afloat on their paddleboards was a factor in their survival.

Mr Draper said: "t could have been a different story if they had been immersed in water all night."

He said that while sea conditions at 15 degrees were warm, the cold could still be detrimental as they were not wearing wetsuits.

He said the force three northeasterly wind would have pushed them out to sea quicker and farther as the paddleboards were inflatable.

He said a flashlight or communications could have helped the paddleboarders to be found sooner but said they were "very lucky to last that long in swimming togs at that temperature".

The Taoiseach said he is very pleased to hear the news of the rescue.

"I welcome it very very warmly. And I think it underlines obviously the importance of all of us being very careful all of the time. But also I think the importance of the emergency services and the voluntary groups across the country who do so much to try and protect our citizens on an ongoing basis and particularly in our coastal communities, sometimes they don't get the appreciation they deserve," Micheál Martin said.  

Additional reporting Joan O'Sullivan