Gorey school gives deafening welcome to returning Paralympics golden boy

Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 01:00

IT’S ONLY when you see all 1,543 pupils gathered together at Gorey Community School, along with its 130 staff, that you realise how big the country’s largest secondary school is.

Darragh McDonald, who won a gold medal in the S6 400m freestyle event at the Paralympic Games in London, was left speechless at the size of the hero’s welcome he received at his school in the Co Wexford town yesterday.

A sea of green uniforms lined the avenue to the school as the 18-year-old was driven into his Leaving Cert year sitting up in the back of a red convertible.

As he was brought up the avenue, the sea of bodies filled in behind him, and when he was brought out on to the balcony at the front of the school the cheer from the crowd below was deafening.

The last time an event of comparable size took place at the school was four years ago when McDonald returned home from Beijing with a silver medal in the S6 400m freestyle event, but this time he went one better.

“Darragh is a great role model for teenagers everywhere,” said proud principal Michael Finn.

“He is a real hero for the students.”

He said that for the past few years McDonald has fitted his training around his schooling, travelling to the swimming pool in Arklow early in the morning and again in the evening.

“How’s it going, everyone?” said the delighted athlete as he greeted the crowd.

“This school is part of my support team. I don’t have words to say how thankful I am to all of you,” he said.

His father, Derek, said the gold medallist will take a few days’ break before returning to school next Monday.

“I promised him if he medalled, he’d get a German shepherd pup, and that’s the only thing he asked for,” said his mother, Caroline.

“The Leaving Cert will be hard work. But he’s ready for it.”

The swimmer was also given a homecoming celebration in Gorey town yesterday evening as the local town council hosted a civic welcome for him.