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Families' joy as Ireland's Grand Slam heroes celebrate historic win over England

By Lisa Smyth

Ecstatic Ireland rugby families and fans shared their joy yesterday at the team's historic triumph in the Six Nations.

Despite the Arctic-like weather forcing the cancellation of the team's homecoming parade in Dublin, pride in sporting heroes was the order of the day.

Check out our galleries from the St Patrick's Day parades in - Derry StrabaneBelfast - Dublin - Downpatrick - Newry - Armagh

Jim Flanagan, father-in-law of Ireland star Iain Henderson, could not contain his joy at the Grand Slam triumph.

"I'm absolutely delighted for Iain and for the team, absolutely thrilled for them," he said.

"We're all very proud of Iain. That's his third championship medal. I think he's one of the youngest rugby players in Europe with three Six Nations championship medals."

Lions and Ireland lock Iain and his wife Suzanne, a dentist in Belfast, are due back home today, Mr Flanagan said.

And he revealed that the childhood sweethearts, who married last year, are expecting their first child next month.

"It's a big month for them, in more ways than one," said the former Schools' Cup finalist.

" It'll be our first grandchild, so it's exciting for us as well."

John Best, father of Ireland captain Rory, said: "The whole family is just so proud of Rory. Rory's had a tremendous run, a tremendous career.

"He's worked hard and had a lot of support from the people around him."

The proud dad also had words of praise for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

"It's a great team, and they have a great coach. They've made history," he said.

"Joe Schmidt's a great fellow - he understand people, motivates people, empowers them, enthuses them. A great fellow."

He is looking forward to seeing Rory later today when he returns from Dublin,

Fans are still bouncing with excitement at the historic Six Nations triumph.

Tony Breen (36) from Armoy in Co Antrim said: "It was amazing, it was a great day and a great atmosphere.

"I was at the Scotland-Ireland game last weekend and went to the Ireland-Fiji match in Dublin, but this was something else.

"I'd never been to Twickenham before but it was definitely worth the journey.

"It was unreal, there were about 82,500 people in the stands and there were no problems with the England fans at all.

"Every time they started singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot we would start singing and drown them out, the atmosphere was out of this world.

"After the first five or 10 minutes it became clear to us that Ireland were in control.

"It was definitely the best game to be at, with Ireland winning the Grand Slam in England on St Patrick's Day.

"Ireland have been fantastic throughout the tournament and I was reading that they are all under 26, so they are definitely going to be a strong side for World Cup.

"Unfortunately, I don't think I will be heading to Japan, but it was a great day and everyone enjoyed themselves.

"All the pubs were packed, everyone was in great form with it being St Patrick's Day and were thrilled by Ireland's performance.

"It was unbelievable.

"I thought the match would have been a lot tighter but after the first try by Ireland, that was it.

"I don't think England managed to get back from that.

"The craic was good and the Guinness was great, it definitely was the best game I have ever been to."

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