McKillop caps gold haul with top award
IRELAND's Paralympians return home this evening with their suitcases laden down with the medals they picked up in London.
While the total stayed at 16 over the final weekend of action despite some near misses, Michael McKillop did pick up one final gong to go with his two golds from last week at last night's closing ceremony.
The Antrim native was awarded the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award -- first established in Seoul in 1988 -- from the International Paralympic Committee for being one of two athletes who best exemplified the spirit of the Games.
To see an Irish athlete rewarded once again in front of a packed Olympic Stadium brought a fitting close to 11 days of glory.
Ireland's tally of 16 medals, half of them gold, is an impressive return for the team who set out with a target of five in total -- three golds and 15 finalists.
Set after what was achieved at Beijing, that always seemed like it was low and the team were confident of beating that target, even if the total they finished on was beyond their wildest dreams.
Now, the job turns to capitalising on their success, with the team returning home to a short window in which they can build their profile and bask in the glory.
Tonight, they will be welcomed into Dublin airport before receiving public homecomings in their home towns.
There is talk of an appearance on the 'Late Late Show' before it all dies down, then the focus turns to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with funding top of the agenda.
On Saturday, Darragh McDonald came closest to adding to Ireland's total when he agonisingly missed out on his second medal in the final of the 100m S6 freestyle, finishing fourth with a time of 1:08.92.
Having won gold a week previously in the 400m, the Wexford native couldn't complain about his lot and was satisfied with the race.
"I'm happy with the job. It was a good race, the field was very strong, the lads that won deserved to win, they are very strong competitors and I have no regrets. I gave it my all," McDonald said.
"I'm disappointed I didn't win a medal but I'm glad because it will spur me on and create a new level of determination," McDonald pointed out.
Ratoath's James Scully finished seventh in the final of the 100m S5 freestyle, while Clontarf's Ellen Keane narrowly missed out on a final place in the SB9 100m breaststroke with a personal best of 1.22.97.
At Brands Hatch, James Brown and Damien Shaw could not follow their bronze in Wednesday's time trial with a win in the race as they were forced to retire after a mechanical failure.
Katie-George Dunlevy and Sandra Fitzgerald finished fifth in the women's road race, their third fifth-placed finish at these Games, while Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehan came in ninth.