Saturday 16 December 2017

Fans give Ireland's women's rugby heroes a rousing welcome home

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

FANS young and old turned out in force to give a rousing reception to Ireland’s Women’s World Cup rugby heroes at Dublin Airport.

The Irish flag, balloons, and specially made messages of goodwill, festooned the arrivals area, to acknowledge a remarkable sporting odyssey.

The scramble in the airport's Terminal 1 was a special acknowledgement of the team's historic win against the mighty New Zealanders.

Supporters sung their hearts out. 'Ireland's Call', 'Amhran na bhFiann', and The Fields Of Athenry ringing around the airport.

The atmosphere had been building for well over an hour, and cheers of excitement erupted as the Irish team emerged through the arrivals hall.

Leading the girls in green was captain Fiona Coghan as she and her team mates were mobbed by some of their most fervent supporters.

But there was also a distinct tinge of disappointment among some of the players, who clearly felt that after defeating New Zealand, the ultimate prize was within their grasp.

"We achieved our goal of making the top four, but when you get there you want more," Fiona told the Irish Independent.

"We didn't perform at the business end of the season.

"However, beating New Zealand was a high, and woke up the whole tournament and threw it wide open.

"But as a sportsperson you're there to win," Fiona said.

"We knew all along the level of our support; the messages we've been getting on social media have been brilliant."

She also said her decision to retire from international rugby was due to the impact it is having on other aspects of her life.

"It's the time it requires; my body is fine and I probably could keep playing.

"But you're training every day - mornings, nights and weekends."

Lynne Cantwell said the momentous win against New Zealand had "been coming for some time" and their success was down to meticulous preparation.

"You want to produce a performance in every game, but sometimes it just clicks," she said.

"Everything came together in that game and it was fairly strategic."

"We kept the heads and kept calm and didn't give up until the final whistle."

Despite having reached a new pinnacle in Irish sport, by facing down the best the Kiwis had to throw at them, Ireland were subsequently crushed by England in their semi-final battle.

Yet their win over the Black Ferns - something their male counterparts have yet to achieve on over a century of games against the All Blacks – will remain a sporting landmark in this country.

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