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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Families turn up for euphoric medal party

Shane Hickey in London

AFTER all of the glory in the arena and on the track, this was a time for family and friends.

Eleven of Ireland's winning Paralympians received a euphoric reception yesterday as they displayed just some of the medals the team has secured in the games.

More than 100 supporters roared as the group of cyclists, horse riders and track-and-field athletes walked into a ceremony in their honour in the team's official 'house' in east London.

Cyclists Mark Rohan, Catherine Walsh, Fran Meehan, James Brown and Damien Shaw joined with runner Michael McKillop, discus thrower Orla Barry and equestrian competitors Helen Kearney, Geraldine Savage, James Dwyer and Eilish Byrne at the event.

Between them, they have won 10 of the 13 medals that Ireland has secured in the Paralympic Games, one of the most successful hauls of recent years.

The celebration came at the end of a disappointing day of competition for the Irish team.

However, this was furthest from the minds of the fans last night as they toasted the glory of the winners.

James Dwyer, part of the Irish equestrian team, which won bronze, said their participation had been a pipe dream 10 years ago.

"It is the first time we are here (at a games) with a team and we come home with a bronze medal," he said.

For Mr Shaw and Mr Brown, who won bronze in cycling, there was some insight into what conversation passes between riders on a tandem bike during a competition.

"Damien says a few things and I ignore them," Mr Brown joked.

Mark Rohan, the former GAA footballer who was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2001, said it was "amazing to see the genuine delight" from those who had travelled to see him take gold on Wednesday.

Liam Moggan, the vice-chairman of Paralympics Ireland, paid tribute to the athletes. "We will never forget you," he said.

Tonight will see the fastest Paralympian of all time, Jason Smyth, take to the track again in the 200m final after his qualification yesterday.

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Irish Independent

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