IT HAS been a whirlwind week for Swords Paralympic hero, Catherine Walsh whose achievements have been feted by the Government at Farmleigh as well as on the Late Late Show and People of the Year Awards.
This week the double Paralympic medalist finally got back to something approaching normal life when she returned to the day job as a physiotherapist at Lusk Community Unit and, slowly, the enormity of her achievements in London are beginning to sink in. Speaking to the Fingal Independent, the cyclist said: ' I was just thinking on Saturday as I was emptying the dishwasher and getting the kids ready that the week before we were in the middle of the road race. 'It is like a parallel universe but I'm delighted to be home and I suppose it is only sinking in now what we have achieved.' Since the hugely successful Irish Paralympic Team touched down at Dublin Airport for their homecoming after the games it has been ' quite mad', Catherine admited. Last week there was an official reception for the team at Farmleigh where the Taoiseach spoke of the inspiration and joy the team had brought to the nation with their exploits in London. And while Catherine and her cycling partner, Fran Meehan, enjoyed that buttoned up occasion, it was really the Late Late Show they were looking forward to. 'That was kinda funny actually because being on the Late Late Show is something Fran has wanted to do for years,' Catherine said. The weekend was topped off when Catherine and Fran were among a handful of Irish Paralympians representing the whole team and accepting an award on their behalf at the People of the Year Awards. Catherine said: 'The People of the Year Awards were fantastic. People had such amazing stories and I just felt gobsmacked by other people's achievements and the generosity of spirt of people – it made me very proud to be an Irish woman.' The reaction to her homecoming in her native Swords has been overwhelming for the successful Paralympian. She said: 'I've had an unvelievable amount of cards from neighbours and well wishers and people have been beeping at me and wishing me well.' At Lusk Community Unit they also had a reception for their new hero and Catherine's medals have proven popular with the clients of the unit who have been eager to bask in the refelcted glory of a Paralympic double medal winner. Catherine said she will be back on the bike and although people keep asking her if she will go on to her seventh Paralympic Games in Rio, that decision has not been made yet. Catherine told the Fingal Independent: 'That process is ongoing. People are asking me what I'm going to do next but I'm just going to take a couple of weeks to process all that has happened in my own head and then sit down and plan for the future.' The success of the whole team is what made this games special for Catherine and all her teammates. She said: 'When you have guys like Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop on your team you know there is going to be some success but the success was much broader than that and we have shown real strength in depth in all the squads.' Catherine said there is a real team ethos in Paralympics Ireland and across the disciplines and sports, all the athletes know each other and support each other. Asked for a personal highlight of the games, Catherine narrowed it down to two moments. 'Well I think for myself and Fran it was getting the medal in the velodrome. It was the last chance for the whole squad there and we worked so hard for that one. 'But I also have to say that Wednesday in Brands Hatch, when Mark (Rohan) won gold and James (Browne) and Damian (Shaw) won bronze and so did we, was amazing. 'There was a big Irish crowd there and they just went mad – I said to Fran that was a half an hour we would never forget.' As Catherine begins to settle back to day-to-day life, the celebrations of her London achievements are not done quite yet. On the 29th of this month her home town club of Fingallians have a night planned in her honour and there is talk of a civic honour from Fingal County Council on the horizon as Catherine's home town continues to remind her of just how proud it is of its latest sporting hero.