Team Ireland arrives home to a hero's welcome

The Irish team picked up eight medals at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria - including two gold, three silver and three bronze

BY Michael Staines 20:29 Saturday 25 March 2017, 20:29 25 Mar 2017

Twenty six Irish athletes have arrived home from the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria to a hero’s welcome at Dublin Airport.

The team picked up eight medals at the games - including two gold, three silver and three bronze.

The team were greeted by family and friends as they proudly displayed their medals - and participation ribbons for fourth and fifth place finishes.

The 26 athletes that made the trip amounted to Ireland’s biggest ever representation at a world winter games.

The team is comprised of six skiers and two squads of 10 floorball players - a sport similar to ice hockey but played on a synthetic surface.

Frances Kavanagh from Special Olympics Ireland says it was an emotional home coming:

“They arrived back in to the arrivals hall and there was such an outpouring of emotions there,” she said.

“They were just thrilled, absolutely thrilled and deservedly so.

“The noise, the colour, the excitement there was absolutely palpable.”

Team Ireland's Cyril Walker, a member of Skiability Special Olympics Club, from Markethill, Co. Armagh, and his sister Geraldine, 25-03-2017. Image: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The squad’s youngest member, 13-year-old Caolan McConville from Craigavon in County Antrim, brought home two medals - silver in the intermediate giant slalom in skiing and bronze in the intermediate slalom.

Wicklow native Lorraine Whelan, 36, won gold in the intermediate slalom while 16-year-old Sean McCartan won gold in the slalom.

Cyril Walker from County Armagh, who claimed Silver in the Novice Slalom, was presented with his medal by Special Olympics ambassador, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Dubliner Laoise Kenny, 16, took fourth place in the giant slalom and the novice slalom while 30-year-old Niall Flynn from Dublin knocked three and a half seconds off his personal best time.

Ireland’s two floorball teams finished fourth and fifth in their respective divisions.

Approximately 90 Irish volunteers travelled to Austria with the team alongside 12 coaches and managers.

Austria welcomed over 2,600 athletes from 105 countries to the games – making it the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2017.

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