Team Ireland received the red carpet treatment after touching down at Dublin Airport from the 2012 Olympic Games at Dublin Airport this afternoon.
Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and show jumper Cian O’Connor, who between them claimed one gold, one silver and three bronze medals at London 2012, were the main attractions at today’s Homecoming celebrations.
Darren O’Neill, who was praised by Team Ireland Chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan for the example he set at the London Games, and Adam Nolan also played their parts in what was a highly successful tournament for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
Annalise Murphy (sailing) and Rob Heffernan (50k walk) produced heroic performances in London, both athletes agonizingly 4th in their respective disciplines.
Taylor, who played such a pivotal role in getting women’s boxing accepted as an Olympic sport, not only claimed gold and the best Female Boxer of the Games Award, she also helped make a huge impression on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who said, courtesy of its President Jacques Rogge, that the IOC’s decision to include women’s boxing in 2012 Olympic program has been vindicated.
“I think we have been vindicated that it was a good decision – and it’s only the beginning,” said the IOC supremo.
Speaking at today’s reception, Katie Taylor admitted that she hadn’t left her gold medal out of her sight since she claimed it with a 10-8 win over Russian southpaw Sofya Ochigava in last Thursday’s Olympic final.
“It’s great to be home, said the current Olympic, World, European and European Union champion.
“It’s been such an intense week. It’s incredible really. I haven’t left it (gold medal) out of my sight. I’ve been sleeping with it and everything. It has been the most incredible two weeks of my life.”
“I’m delighted to be home, added John Joe Nevin, who secured silver in London. “I said from the start that I’d give my right hand for a bronze medal. It’s my third major medal and I’m delighted with it.”
Paddy Barnes, meantime, is targeting a Rio 2016 hat-trick, while Michael Conlan admitted that his bronze is a “pain in the neck.”
“It’s a great achievement for myself – two medals at two different Olympics. I’m really proud of it and I hope to make it three-out-of-three in Rio.”
“My neck is sore (from wearing the bronze medal). No way has it sunk in yet, added Conlan. “Think of your wildest imaginations and then add ten. I’m sure it will sink in over the next few days.”
Pat Hickey, the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland said: “We went away as a team and came back as a family team. I would like to thank the Irish Sports Council for all their help over the past four years.”
Team Ireland Chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan: “The Olympic spirit transpired throughout the team through the support the athletes gave each other. The example set by boxing team captain Darren O’Neill was felt throughout the team.”
Minister of State for Sport and Tourism Michael Ring: “They did their families and their country proud and lifted the souls and minds of the people of Ireland. It’s been the greatest Olympics since 1956 and they lifted the country.”
The President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) Tommy Murphy, the Chairman of the IABA Board of Directors Dr John Lynch, IABA CEO Don Stewart, Director Barry Kenny and the IABA Officer Board attended today’s Homecoming along with the families and friends of the athletes.
The Irish Sports Council was represented by CEO John Treacy, Finbarr Kirwan, Kieran Mulvey and Kathryn Gallagher.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí, the Lord Mayor of Fingal County Council Cian O’Callaghan, Northern Ireland Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, and Andrew Staunton, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to Ireland, were also in attendance.
Further receptions are planned for Katie Taylor and John Joe Nevin in Bray (5pm) and Mullingar (5pm) today. A reception will be held in Belfast for Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan at 7pm this evening.
Irish boxing has now claimed seven of our eight medals from the last two Olympics.