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Paralympic medal haul best in over two decades

THIS year's Paralympic Games have been the most successful for Ireland for almost a quarter of a century.

Not since the 1988 games in Seoul has an Irish team prepared to come home with such a medal haul - which currently stands at 16.

So far, Ireland has won eight golds, three silvers and five bronzes.

Preparations are now under way in Dublin for the return of the 49 athletes who travelled to London less than two weeks ago.

The team is expected to arrive into Dublin Airport's Terminal 1 on Monday evening to be greeted by junior sports minister Michael Ring as well as a large group of well-wishers.

On Friday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to welcome the athletes at a reception in their honour at Farmleigh House hosted by Sports Minister Leo Varadkar.

Before the Games, president Michael D Higgins invited both the Olympic and Paralympic teams to an event in their honour in Aras an Uachtarain, although the date has yet to be set.

"By the time the team return they will have been away from home and their families, parents, husbands, wives, fiances, partners, children, and in many cases their work, for a full month.

Grateful

"So while they are grateful for the offer of a homecoming event they would prefer to meet the public who have supported them at the airport on Monday evening and further celebrate their achievements publicly in their local communities," Paralympics Ireland chief executive Liam Harbison said.

Many of the athletes are already hoping to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. For some of the swimmers, all of them in their teens, the current Games were seen as a warm-up for later success.

Athlete Michael McKillop, who won two golds in London at age 22, is still not considered to be at the peak of his performance and has a bright future ahead of him.

Paralympians can often go to a series of Games across a number of sports. Cyclist Catherine Walsh, who won two medals in these Games, had been a track and field athlete before

Ireland has participated in every single Paralympics since the first in Rome in 1960

Its most successful year was in 1984 when the team brought home 66 medals.

This year was the first time an equestrian team, an air rifle shooter and a powerlifter have taken part for Ireland.

Irish Independent