Led by the RNLI Dún Laoghaire lifeboat Anna Livia and accompanied by a flotilla of some 25 yachts and ribs crossing the town's harbour, Ireland's silver Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy was given a joyous welcome home this evening.
Standing proudly at the front of a rib as it cut through the harbour waters, Tricolour-holding Ms Murphy returned like a conquering heroine.
“This is pretty different,” she said as she stepped ashore, comparing her victorious return from Rio to that from London where, four years ago, she finished an agonising and frustrating fourth in in the Women’s Laser Radial sailing competition.
“This is mad,” said her sister Claudine, laughing as she tried to nudge her way through the throng of media cameras to snatch her own memento of the occasion on her phone.
A little surreal
Her mother Cathy, (a 1988 Irish Olympian) and Father Con (an Olympic sailing race official in Rio) looked on beaming. The occasion was a little surreal for Mrs Murphy.
“Driving here through Blackrock,” she said, “you see your daughter’s name around the place and causing traffic delays. It’s brilliant!”
First to greet Ms Murphy as she stepped ashore onto the East Pier was Fiona Bulger of the Irish Sailing Association, watched by Larry Power, commodore of the Irish National Yacht Club, of which 26-year-old Ms Murphy has been a member for some 20 years.
“It’s just a fantastic achievement,” said Mr Power as the club prepared to host a party for its now most famous member. “We are so proud and honoured to have her. She an inspiration and a role model for today’s junior sailors.”
Family, friends, fellow sailing enthusiasts and wellwishers lined the pier to cheer the silver medallist and a selection of Ireland's other Olympians - badminton player Scott Evans, men's hockey team members Kyle Good, Peter Caruth, David Fitzgerald and Alan Sothern; and Ms Murphy's fellow sailors Saskia Tidey, Andrea Brewter, Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton - as they were led by Ms Murphy up the pier and along the seafront to People's Park.
Striding alongside Ms Murphy was Minister for Sport Shane Ross, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and local TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, and Dún Laoghaire cathaoirleach, Cllr Cormac Devlin. They were led, Pier Piper-like, by two drummers from the Sonna Samba group of entertainers.
Politicians’ speechmaking tested the patience of the People’s Park crowd of some 4,000, whose only interest was to see and cheer the Olympians and the silver medal-wearing Ms Murphy in particular.
The best line
Mr Ross had the best line, however. He was lucky to have been in Rio a few days ago, he told the crowd, adding quickly that he also felt lucky to have gotten out of the city too.
Before stepping on to the stage to well-earned cheers of appreciation, Ms Murphy, relaxed and parrying easily with reporters, spoke of her feelings.
“I’m overwhelmed by the support here today. I’m still so delighted with my medal,” she said, touching it. “It’s something I’ve dreamt of for the last eight years. I think I’m going to wake up and someone’s going to have taken it off me.”
Her thoughts also were for the team behind her and the other Olympians, and all the efforts they put in.
For mother Cathy, sporting a Rio straw hat and patriotic green, white and orange-painted fingernails, Annalise’s Olympic silver is a fitting climax to her daughter’s extra-curricular hobby, punctuated by innocent messing about in the water and sailing to Dalkey Island for picnics.
Ms Murphy appears to wear the burden of her new position lightly.
Today, before coming to Dún Laoghaire, she bade farewell to the departing Irish Paralympic team as its members began their journey to Rio, they too hoping for Olympic glory.