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Irish rugby team fly back to Dublin for heroes welcome

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Fans celebrate

Fans celebrate

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Fans celebrate

The trophy they were triumphantly holding aloft may only have been a replica - the real one remains in Twickenham and will not arrive until later in the week - but its sparkle was genuine.

As the victorious Ireland team arrived back at the VIP terminal in Dublin airport, hundreds of loyal fans were waiting.

Paul O'Connell was first to exit the doors, with a grin on his face and that trophy in hand as a deafening cheer went up. More players seemed to be sporting a black eye than not and all looked exhausted - but ecstatic.

The players spent over 45 minutes mingling with fans and were happy to sign autographs, hold babies, meet young star-struck rugby stars in the making and pose for any number of selfies.

It may have been painful and the manner of victory nerve-wracking - but it had been more than worth it.

And there was one more party before it was all over - with a reception later at the Interncontinental hotel in Dublin.

Johnny Sexton said they were proud - but wistfully mentioned the prize that got away.

"I just wish there was a Grand Slam in there as well," he said.

"I was never in that situation before," he said of the wait for the England France game.

"You play your game and you do everything you can and then have to sit through a whole hour adn a half and watch another game that's just as important as the one you've just played - a crazy couple of hours.

"I couldn't believe that game was going the way it was, the amount of scores that were in it."

He said the 10,000 fans who cheered on the Irish in Edinburgh had been the highlight of his career. Prop Marty Moore said they watched the England game over dinner with the Scottish team. "There wasn't much banter in the room," he admitted.

"The fans have been amazing and it's great to see the turnout to welcome us home," he said.

Belfast Telegraph