Irish Olympians welcomed as hundreds line streets in home communities

Large crowds greet Ireland’s triumphant rowers on the last leg of their journeys home

Ireland's six Olympic medal winners were welcomed home last night. Fiona Murtagh was met with bonfires in Galway as team-mate Eimear Lambe was driven through Cabra, Dublin in an open-top car. Video: Patricia Forde/Iain MacLaren/Cllr Colm O'Rourke

 

Ireland’s successful Olympians returned to their respective homes last night and to communities bursting with pride at their achievements.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant the usual celebrations could not take place, but hundreds of people lined the streets of Skibbereen, Co Cork on Sunday night to welcome home Fintan McCarthy, who won gold in the lightweight double sculls with Emily Hegarty who won a bronze medal in the women’s fours.

Their chauffeur through the town was Hegarty’s proud mother Mary. The pair stopped at the Celtic Cross Hotel in Rosscarbery to meet relatives before continuing on to Skibbereen.

Bonfires were lit in their home parish of Aughadown, west Cork, from where all three Olympians hail. McCarthy’s team-mate Paul O’Donovan made his own way back to Skibbereen.

Skibbereen Rowing Club president Sean Murran said there is a desire to celebrate it properly “on their behalf” at a later stage.

“To see two Olympic medallists from the same small parish is an extraordinary thing, The three of them are within two kilometres of each other. In the depths of the Covid lockdown, they could have walked to each other’s houses,” he said.

In Dublin, Eimear Lambe, another of the women’s fours team that won bronze, took an open-topped car ride through Stoneybatter to her home in Cabra. Thousands of people lined the route.

Fiona Murtagh arrived back to bonfires blazing in her native village of Moycullen, Co Galway and many of Aifric Keogh’s extended family accompanied her on the long journey back from Dublin Airport to her native village of Furbo in Co Galway.

The women’s four teams intend to go their separate ways for a while but are hoping to meet up again at a later stage when the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.

“We are just excited to go home and see family and school friends. Outside Christmas we probably haven’t seen our families except the odd weekend here or there,” said Keogh after arriving into Dublin Airport on Sunday afternoon.

“There were times when we needed time away from the group, but we knew the smart thing was to keep the group as safe as possible and stay within the bubble.”

For many of Ireland’s athletes, the pandemic has meant being separated from their families for months before the Olympics.

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