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Watch: Ireland's hockey heroines break into song at rapturous welcome home party

By Allison Bray

Christmas came early for the Irish women's hockey team as they celebrated their historic World Cup silver medal finish with a rousing festive song that brought Dame Street in Dublin to a standstill.

The side, captained by Coleraine woman Katie Mullan, have won legions of new fans with their underdog journey to the final and hailed the sacrifices made and the hard work put in by each girl to reach the final.

Although the yuletide celebration is more than five months away, the team broke into an upbeat rendition of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You as more than a thousand well-wishers gathered outside Dublin City Hall yesterday for the homecoming celebrations.

The unseasonal choice of song was inspired by the excitement the team felt on the eve of the final.

They said it generated the same butterflies-in-the-stomach sensation as Christmas inspires in children.

They sang it before the historic showdown with the Netherlands at London's Lee Valley Stadium. And even though they were defeated 6-0, their David and Goliath struggle has turned the underdogs into heroes the world over.

Despite the defeat Ireland - with players from both sides of the border - are expected to climb up to 10th in the world rankings for the first time.

Arriving at Dublin Airport to a rapturous welcome, Ms Mullan said getting to the final meant the world to the team.

"We wanted to make an impact - and boy did we make an impact," she said.

"We were ranked 15th and to be standing here with a silver medal, we exceeded all expectations.

"In terms of leading the girls, it was a great privilege to run down the tunnel first and wear the armband, but we have an incredible number of leaders in this group and everyone leads the team in their own right.

"I'm just the lucky one who gets to wear the armband. They're a very easy group to captain, everyone listens, everyone cares so much.

"When you get a group of people with a common goal, it is very easy to bring them together because they're prepared to do whatever it takes."

Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring, who hosted a private reception at Dublin City Hall for the players and their families ahead of the street party, said the team more than deserved the accolades and celebrations.

"What a boost for the country. What a boost for women's sport," he said.

Mr Ring added: "This is a historic day, on an historic street.

"The ladies in this team have made history for themselves, their sport and their country. Let them be an inspiration to you.

"We have a great tradition of sport in Ireland and these underdogs had the skill and the determination.

"These girls have proven we are the best.

"Thank you for making us so proud to be Irish."

The team, who lined up on stage with their silver medals and draped in the Irish flag, were thanked by their coach Graham Shaw, who said they had not realised how much support had grown across Ireland.

"Yesterday was a testament to the character of the team and the people that they are, to show the bottle that they did," he said.

"We had no idea how many people were watching at home.

"We're very grateful to all the supporters and non-hockey supporters that turned out for us."

Belfast Telegraph

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