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Saturday 24 August 2019

Rousing welcome Taylor-made for prize-winning gaffe by minister

Delight: Boxer Kellie Harrington can’t contain her excitement at the Team Ireland homecoming at Dublin Airport. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Delight: Boxer Kellie Harrington can’t contain her excitement at the Team Ireland homecoming at Dublin Airport. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Seal of approval: Athlete Grainne Walsh gets a congratulatory kiss from her mum Geraldine and dad Gerry at the homecoming. Photo: Colin Keegan
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

They had been on the road and in the air since 2am, but a weary Team Ireland got a rousing welcome home as they arrived at Dublin Airport.

The athletes arrived with an impressive haul of seven medals from the European Games in Minsk - six in boxing, among them silver for world champion Kellie Harrington, and a bronze for Donegal brother and sister badminton duo Chloe and Sam Magee.

Gaffe-prone Sports Minister Shane Ross, who welcomed the team home, produced another humdinger when he mixed up Kellie with that other well-known world champ, Katie Taylor. Perhaps it was a case of one too many visits to Dublin Airport for the minister who welcomed home Taylor just last month.

A thumb injury meant Dubliner Kellie was unable to compete for gold in the final. Despite this Mr Ross said he insisted on thinking of her as a gold medal winner, adding: "We all know that Katie will come back as strong as ever."

Kellie took this blunder in her stride and laughed it off.

While disappointed at being unable to compete in the final, Kellie was still in a buoyant mood as she told the Irish Independent: "I've come home with a silver medal from the European Games which is a massive achievement so I'm really happy with it.

"I'm not going to let what happened in the final with my injury ruin the success of my silver."

Asked how she will be celebrating her medal win, she laughed: "I'm going to have a burger or a pizza and I've seen my mam has a box of doughnuts for me."

Meanwhile, gold medallist Kurt Walker, from Lisburn, Co Antrim, said he was overwhelmed at the welcome, particularly from his adorable nine-month-old nephew Rio who had the press photographers snapping.

Proud parents Audrey and Samuel Magee had travelled from their home in Raphoe to congratulate Chloe and Sam on their win.

However, there was to be no party last night as the siblings were straight back into training before heading to Russia and Asia with the hope of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

The siblings inherited their dad's sporty gene and he was their first coach. "When they were four or five I was coaching them, but I wasn't good enough," said Samuel modestly.

Chloe said: "I'm so tired but feeling good, it's crazy coming back to this."

Asked what it was like competing as a team with her brother, she said: "We know each other extremely well so the highs are very high but when you fight the fights are quite bad as well. But no, I couldn't ask for a better person to do it with.

"Sam knows me so well and we have a good understanding of each other and it's just amazing to do it with your brother. Family is everything."

Irish Independent

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