Team Ireland get an extra special homecoming
Bagpipes and roof-lifting cheers greeted the arrival home of Team Ireland in Dublin Airport today after their epic performance at the Special Olympics European Games in Belgium.
And with 46 athletes bringing home a glittering stash of 57 medals, the heroes' welcome was well earned as the chants of Ole, Ole. Ole, Ole rang out amid the fluttering tricolours.
On top of the gold, silver and bronze haul, 31 placement ribbons were also awarded to Irish athletes in what was one of the most successful Irish showings at the European Games to date.
The Irish men's seven-a-side football team, captained by Cork man Wayne O' Callaghan not only brought home gold, after defeating Israel on Friday but also got the prestigious Fair Play award in recognition of their exemplary conduct on the pitch.
The 21 year old from Vicarstown near Blarney revealed it had been his lifelong dream to don the green jersey and tog out for his country.
Currently studying sports coaching, he also coaches under sevens gaelic football.
He said he was especially proud of the Fair Play award. "It's all about our attitude on the pitch so that's important," he said, adding how he had made "friends for life" amongst the teams taking part.
"It was the best week of my life," declared his mother, Carol O'Callaghan, who admitted that she was "very proud" of her talented son.
Pat Dorgan (50), also from Cork, had also brought home gold and was sensation in his two events, taking gold in the singles competition and silver in the doubles with his partner, Carrie Doyle (26) from Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Oliver Hanratty (38) from Dundalk, Co Louth brought home silver and bronze in the bocce event. It was his first time taking part in the European games.
"His excitement and joy to get the envelope in the door saying he had been picked and then to go and win two medals was just unreal," said mother, Mary Hanratty.
Father, Peter Hanratty said it had been incredible to watch his son taking part in the games.
"Some of it you couldn't hardly watch at all because it was so exciting," he said, adding that his son had beat off some stiff competition to win.
The welcome home was emotional, he admitted.
"I wouldn't often get emotional but I'm feeling it now," he said.
Mary Davis, Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe said the team had performed extremely well and that the games had been very well organised.
"It was the best closing ceremony we have ever seen," she said.