The Grainne fan
Elaine Furlong dropped in to swimmer Gráinne Murphy's family's pub, the Horse and Hound, and had a word with a few of her biggest fans
GRÁINNE MURPHY'S supporters needed little encouragement to gather in such great numbers in the Horse and Hound early last Sunday morning.
Outside her family's home place of the Horse and Hound, the premises was proudly bedecked with posters of support for the 19year-old and awash with colour, with green, white and orange Irish bunting, the purple and gold of Wexford, and the green and yellow of her home club of Cushinstown, of which her father Brendan is a member.
Gráinne's loyal fans were bursting with excitement and enthusiasm as they gathered to cheer her on in great anticipation of her opening in her long-awaited Olympic debut.
Among them was Gráinne's boyfriend David Fahy, who was busy working the bar. 'I am extremely proud of her to come to this level at this young age – it is a huge achievement,' he said.
The Duncormick native is heading to London for five days this Wednesday in advance of Gráinne's 800m performance on Thursday. 'It's the big one,' said David, adding that he will get to see Gráinne after the race.
'We are so excited,' said Bernie Cashin from Newbawn. 'It's unbelievable. Gráinne is something else – she is out on her own.'
'She had a bad month in March and lost out on a lot of training but she will give it all she can in the Olympics,' she added.
'She is great out here with us in the Horse and Hound, you would never think she is an Olympic star – she is very ordinary,' said Bernie, who is a member of the Horse and Hound Ladies' Golf Society.
According to Bernie, the atmosphere in the Horse and Hound was ' electric' on Saturday night and Gráinne's many supporters are also eagerly looking forward to the ' big day' on Thursday.
Her sentiments were echoed around the popular hostelry throughout the morning, with Yvonne O'Neill from Old Ross commenting that it is a 'real honour' for a small area such as Ballinaboola to be represented at the Olympic Games.
'We are all really proud of her. It is great to see the crowd here this morning and everyone out in their colours to support her,' said Yvonne, who has full faith in Gráinne performing well in the 2012 games.
'She has put in a lot of work, fair play to her. She has a great future in the sport,' said Yvonne.
Beside her a group of young girls from Waterford, all of whom are swimmers in Waterford Crystal, came to Ballinaboola especially to see Gráinne perform in the heats. To these young swimming enthusiasts Gráinne is a great role model.
'I hope she gets through,' said 13-year-old Jessica Fitzpatrick, while her friend Ciara McCarthy, whose mother worked in the Horse and Hound, said Gráinne is ' brilliant' and recalled getting Gráinne's autograph at her homecoming from the European Championships. Also eagerly awaiting the heats was Eugene Cashin from Newbawn, who says he knows Gráinne longer than she knows him. ' We're very proud of her achievements,' said Eugene, adding that the morning's atmosphere was even better than the excitement of the night before. Neighbour Catherine Morrissey, who has known the swimming supremo since she was a child, remarked that all her neighbours are very proud of Gráinne.
Equally, Davy Dwyer, the chairman of RathgarogueCushinstown GAA Club, was full of praise for the young athlete.
'We wish her the very best of luck. It is a great achievement for her and great for the parish, who are all behind her, as too are the GAA club,' said Davy.
Although finishing last in her 400m freestyle heat in a time of 4:19.07, Grainne's fans never faltered in their support for her and many knew that the teenager had overcome glandular fever in March, which can dramatically affect energy levels.
Swim Ireland's performance director Peter Banks said that Gráinne had been swimming 4:09 and 8:29 for 400m and 800m freestyle last March before the illness struck.
Gráinne pulled out of the 200m freestyle heats yesterday (Monday) morning in the hope that she will be okay for her strongest event, the 800m, on Thursday.
'I think she wants to swim the 800m because that's what she's here to do and Gráinne's a fighter and a competitor,' said Peter in the wake of her performance on Sunday.
'We always thought the 400m was going to be a stretch for her because it was a very, very high standard. She really pushed the first 200m today and then sort of fell off the tracks a little bit. You can be a bit more paced in the 800m, you don't have to be as hard going out,' he said.
All Gráinne's loyal supporters want is for her to return home happy with her Olympic performances. They now look forward to seeing her race in the 800m on Thursday with the same enthusiasm as they did on Sunday.