Team Ireland's Olympic athletes arrive home
Olympic gold medal boxer Katie Taylor flew a Tricolour from the front of a plane as Team Ireland arrived home from London 2012.
Amid fallout and disappointment over a delayed homecoming celebration, the champ heralded the athletes' return in front of dozens of close family and friends and dignitaries.
Taylor is one of four Olympians to be celebrated when they reach their home towns later today after competitors asked for some time off to spend with relatives.
The official public reception for Team Ireland takes place outside the Mansion House in Dublin on Wednesday lunchtime.
Pat Hickey, the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), has insisted that there has been no fall-out with the Taylor camp after it was misreported that coach and father Peter Taylor told the sports body he did not want a homecoming in Dublin.
"There is no rift whatsoever between Pete Taylor and the Olympic CI or the athletes," he said.
"I personally have a great relationship with Pete Taylor. He was misquoted in several papers about many things. Of course the man was very angry."
Mr Hickey rejected claims that the whole homecoming plan had been botched but admitted communications failures.
"Shambles is too big of a word," he said.
The OCI chief told RTE Radio that he had spoken to his "great friend" Pete Taylor yesterday and that the row over which members of the team did not want a civic reception was caused by a breakdown in communications.
He said the boxing team had made it known at the weekend that they were keen to get home to families immediately after the airport arrival rather than attend celebrations in Dublin city.
Mr Taylor was not consulted as he was at dinner when views were sought.
Katie led the other Irish Olympic medal winners into Dublin Airport after they touched down this afternoon to a rapturous welcome from family and friends.
The Bray gold medal winner admitted she had only had a few hours sleep but said it was “great to be home”.
“It has been such a pressurising week, such an intense week. It’s taken years and years of hard work for this moment,” she said.
“It’s been the most incredible two weeks of my life.”
Katie (26) also admitted that she hadn’t let her gold medal out of her sight and was even sleeping with it.
Her dad and coach Pete Taylor told RTE News that that it was great to be home after a crazy few days.
He said he had cried with his daughter and when they saw her mother as well. “You can’t put into words what this means to us as a family,” he told Marty Morrissey at the homecoming.
Silver medal winner John Joe Nevin said it had been a long five weeks away and he was delighted to be home.
After an initial disappointment with silver instead of gold, he was now over that. “It’s my third major medal to bring home and I’m delighted,” he said.
Belfast boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan said they were looking forward to getting home to a reception being held for them tonight.
“My neck is sore it’s that heavy,” Conlan said of his bronze medal. “I can’t wait to go home now. Think of your wildest imagination by ten times. I didn’t sleep until 4am today.”
Paddy Barnes promised to take the sunshine for Dublin to Belfast with him. “It’s a great achievement to get two medals from two Olympics. I hope to make it three out of three in Rio.”
Bronze medal winner Cian O’Connor, who came home last week, joined the other athletes as they disembarked from the flight from London. “It’s great to be part of this historic Team Ireland,” he said.
The 66 athletes and coaching staff touched down at Dublin Airport just before 2pm.
It wasn't the largest team Ireland ever sent to a games, but the athletes competed across 14 different events and matched Ireland’s previous best medal tally from Melbourne in 1956.
Katie Taylor will be welcomed back to Bray with her gold medal later today.
And silver medal-winning boxer John Joe Nevin will also be cheered back to his native Mullingar later.
Rob Heffernan and Annalise Murphy, who came so close with fourth places, were also mentioned at the reception to honour the athletes.
Following a photo call at the steps of the aircraft, a press reception was held in the terminal building, attended by Mayor of Fingal Cian O’Callaghan, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring TD, Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise O’Muiri, Northern Ireland Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure Carál Ni Chuilín MLA, acting British Ambassador Andrew Staunton, Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey and Chef de Mission Sonia O’Sullivan, amongst other dignitaries.
Speaking on the occasion, Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller said, ‘We are incredibly proud to welcome the Irish Olympic Team on board the special Aer Lingus homecoming flight. On behalf of all the staff at Aer Lingus, I would like to take this opportunity to offer our congratulations to Team Ireland on their success in the London Olympic Games.”
The Olympic Council of Ireland President, Pat Hickey said, "It's been a marvellous Olympic Games for Team Ireland and we return home knowing that the Irish public fully appreciated the efforts of our athletes at the greatest sporting event on earth. We thank everyone for their
support and good wishes."
The Chef de Mission, Sonia O’Sullivan said Team Ireland had been fantastic and thanked all the athletes, coaches and medical staff.
She paid tribute to the team spirit and positive energy at the Games and acknowledged the overwhelming support from the Irish people at home and abroad.