Cork brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan strained every sinew in their bodies to snatch a superb silver on the waters of Rio on Friday - and make history in the process.

The Skibbereen brothers produced a brilliantly timed display to come within a whisker of scooping gold, pushing favourites France all the way in a thrilling climax.

Norway took the early lead with the Irish sitting in fourth from their lane one berth, slipping to fifth by the 500m mark.

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France edged by the Norwegians near halfway with the Irish remaining in touch with the leading group.

Just after halfway, the O’Donovans had squeezed up to second, less than half a second behind the French.

The Skibbereen pairing were out in front heading for the closing stages, but they couldn't hang on as Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou found a late burst to take gold for France.

Nonetheless, it was a memorable moment for the Corkmen, who clinched a first ever Olympic rowing medal for their country. 

"It's fantastic; we haven't had too much of a chance to come to terms with it," Gary O'Donovan said afterwards.

"We wanted to win the gold medal but to come out with a silver, we're just so happy. We can't complain about that."

"We're dreading going home now," Paul added. "Mick Conlan said he'd box the head off us if we didn't get the gold!"