Heroes' welcome for Ireland's Special Olympians as they land at Dublin Airport
It was a heroes’ welcome for Ireland’s Special Olympians as they touched down at Dublin Airport earlier this afternoon.
Friends and family packed into the arrivals hall in their droves, singing a chorus of The Fields of Athenry as they waited for the 91 athletes to appear.
And when they did emerge, it was to triumphant cheers and a scene of pure jubilation.
Among those waiting were Sports Minister Shane Ross and Irish soccer legend Niall Quinn, who had been on hand before the games in Abu Dhabi to run a soccer clinic for the footballers who went on to secure bronze medals.
“I got to speak to them before they left and I was taken aback by their positive attitude and commitment and then to bring home a bronze in the toughest one of them all, football, I am very proud of them,” he told independent.ie.
“I told them I’d come if they won a medal – I would’ve come anyway but I had to come when they got the medal, and it is just great, the joy on their face – what a great day,” he added.
Meanwhile, Richard Currie (23) from Dungannon, Co Tyrone came home laden down in silverware, winning two golds and one silver medal for his efforts in Bocce.
Bocce is a ball sport similar to bowls.
“It was really hard going up against the big countries like America but I came out as the winner,” he said.
“I am the Usain Bolt of Bocce – because he has a big personality,” he added.
Stephen Murphy, who competed in Basketball, placing fourth, had been welcomed home from a strong contingent from Palmerstown and Lucan.
He was most looking forward to tucking into a well-earned Chinese take-away now he was back on home soil.
And never mind Cloud Nine, Dublin golfer John Keating said he was on Cloud Ten as he arrived home with a gold medal around his neck.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I’ve had amazing support, the whole family came out,” he said.
As well as a golfer, the 27-year-old is a rugby referee so he was looking forward to a shindig back at his rugby club this week.
“I’m back to relax for a bit and we will see where we go from there – I think there will be more celebrations for me at my homecoming and at my rugby club.”
“This is my first world games so we will see where we go, I will take it in for the moment and see where this goes.”
“I started when I was 13 with Pitch and Putt in Spawell not far from me and I worked my way up to 18 holes and I play in a golf society in Templeogue.”