Newly crowned WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee fulfilled a lifelong dream yesterday as he raised his world title belt aloft on arrival at Shannon Airport, and then declared: "I want to defend my belt here in Limerick".
Lee was greeted at the foot of the aircraft and embraced by his mother Ann - his father Tom having already travelled over to London to meet him following Andy's flight there on Monday from LA - in what was an emotional reunion for both.
"It's a dream come true to be back here in Shannon," he said after touching down. "I've always had this dream to be standing here with a world title belt and it's almost surreal now it's happened. To see all the media, all the fans here. It's incredible."
Andy's mother said she could now finally believe it's true.
"It was no bluff when he said that he wanted to come back to Shannon as World Champion. That's what he dreamed of and he's achieved it.
"We go on to Limerick from here for a civic reception. It's unbelievable. I'm so proud."
Speaking after the Castleconnell, Limerick man, who beat Russia's Matt Korobov on asixth round TKO for the vacant WBO World middleweight title at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas last Saturday, greeted the hundreds of ecstatic fans who swarmed him as he stepped out into the arrivals area, Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey said it was another remarkable moment at Shannon.
"I read on Monday that Andy said that it was always his dream to step off a plane at Shannon Airport with a world title belt but today the privilege is all ours," he said.
"Shannon Airport has had some of the biggest names in global sport through its doors. Only last weekend we had the Munster rugby squad fly out of here for their Clermont game and we had champion jockey Ruby Walsh here a couple of weeks ago.
"We've had top international footballers, golfers and plenty of our own GAA stars.
"It's great to be so closely associated with the brilliant sports stars of the region. But I think all of them would tip their hats to Andy for what he achieved at the weekend. He was the complete underdog and no Irish boxer since 1934 has won a title on American soil.
"Andy is a true gent of a really tough sport. I have heard many people talk about their delight that he won this not only for his boxing skills but because he is one of the real good guys of the sport. His homecoming today is a very proud moment for Shannon. It was particularly emotional to see him reunited with his mother Anne here as well. It was one of the great moments we've seen here."
After meeting fans, Andy left for Limerick for a civic reception.