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It's 'ole' all way as Team Ireland returns from Rio to heroes' welcome

By Alan O'Keefe

Published 25/08/2016

Boxer Michael Conlan with his daughter Luisne
Boxer Michael Conlan with his daughter Luisne
Paddy Barnes with young fan Joel Thomas
Paddy Barnes kissing his daughter Eireann
Michael Conlan with daughter Luisne
Steven Donnelly
Marathon runners Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaworth

Northern Ireland's Olympians came home to a warm Irish welcome at Dublin Airport with the sound of 'ole, ole, ole' echoing in the arrivals area.

Families and fans cheered loudly at the first glimpse of the tracksuited Team Ireland athletes in Terminal One.

Waving flags and posters, the athletes' loved ones were quick to embrace them on their return from Rio. Co Antrim boxer Steven Donnelly got a warm welcome from his parents Brian and Sharon, who travelled from Ballymena with girlfriend Sarah Louise McClelland.

"We're very proud of Steven. He's the only Irish fighter who won two of his fights," said Brian.

Boxer Michael Conlan from Belfast, cradling baby daughter Luisne, said he's "not bothered" by potential AIBA disciplinary action for criticising judges in his bout.

"They can do what they want and say what they want, but how can they discipline me after more or less admitting what they done was wrong," he said.

But before the team could go through a cordon to meet the public and the media, Olympic Council of Ireland stand-in president William O'Brien shook hands with the athletes and then made a hasty exit.

Despite being asked by reporters to comment on the Olympic tickets controversy, Mr O'Brien refused to answer questions.

John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, said the tickets controversy had nothing whatsoever to do with celebrating the return of the Olympic team.

"They deserve this great welcome. A performance of such depth by an Irish Olympic team has never been equalled," he said.

But north Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes yesterday refused to let the scandal die. "My third Olympics and family travelled to watch me - refused by Team Ireland entry to village while others weren't," he tweeted.

"This ticket scandal is a disgrace!"

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