There was a festival atmosphere on the streets of Mullingar as thousands of fans lined the streets to welcome home Westmeath’s Olympic heroes.
Flags, bunting and cheers filled the streets as silver medalist John Joe Nevin and event rider Joseph Murphy were paraded through the town to heartfelt applause.
The dedication displayed by the two Olympians is probably best highlighted by 36-year-old Murphy, who postponed his wedding and honeymoon in order to participate in the Games.
“It’s a great turnout,” said Sharon Wyer who was watching the open top bus begin its parade through Patrick St with her young son Ben. “He’s a big fan,” she said.
Nevin had a surprise visitor when Niall Horan of chart-topping boy band One Direction flew in especially for the event.
Horan told the massive crowd at Cusack Park he had been lucky enough to see Nevin fight in London on three occasions.
“I told him I would roll out the red carpet for him so here it is,” said the heartthrob.
While Horan received a warm reception, the crowds lifted the stand roof when Nevin and Murphy entered the stadium.
The pair paraded for the crowds while Nevin showed off his trademark Mullingar Shuffle for the delighted audience.
“First of all I would like to thank everyone for being here today, it’s a dream come true for me to come back and get represented by such a big crowd,” Nevin told the gathering.
“It means a lot to have my family here today without my mother and father I mightn’t have been here today.
“You might have seen me pointing up at the skies when I was over there, that was for my cousin David who passed away in February. He was another big inspiration.”
Admitting he would “love to go back and fight for a gold medal”, he said he planned to take three weeks off to relax before making any decisions on what he might do in the future.
However, he did not rule out the prospect of turning professional.
Speaking about his defeat to Luke Campbell, Nevin said: “I have no excuses. The better man won on the day and I take my hat off to Luke Campbell.”
Brian McKeown, Nevin’s Cavan Boxing Club coach, believed the lack of time between the two bouts might not have helped.
“John Joe beat the world champion the night before. How do you get your feet back on the ground within 24 hours, it’s impossible.”
Nevin admitted he had considered not attending the 2012 Olympics.
“I’m up there with the top in the world and I can beat anyone when I am performing, but I wasn’t performing,” he said.
“The training camp we had, then I got my mind around it and I was sparring well and things and I just decided to go then.
“To bring back a silver medal to my country, my town, and all you fans is a dream come true.”
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