Up to 150 packed Cork Airport yesterday to welcome back the first man in the world to complete the epic Oceans Seven challenge.
Stepping into the arrivals hall, the Ballydehob man looked genuinely shocked by the welcome, and finally let his emotions get the better of him after completing the final leg of the challenge at the weekend — what he described as the “horrifying” 27km Tsugaru Channel in Japan.
A humble Steve, 46, said he was “overwhelmed” by the reception and said the swim belonged to the people of Cork and Ireland.
“I’m overwhelmed I can tell you. Frightened. It’s nearly as bad as swimming in Japan I tell you. It’s just so good to be home. My God, I never thought I’d see this day. All these people here are why I got this thing done and it’s their swim not mine.
“It’s Ireland’s swim really. It’s incredible. I don’t know how I am going to get out of here because I am going to be crying for the next three or four hours. It’s just unbelievable.”
Steve paid tribute to his team, his family, and his local community and pointed out that it was the fear of letting them down that gave him the motivation to beat off some of the world’s most renowned long-distance swimmers — some of whom were heavily financed.
“We weren’t given a chance by the rest of the world. We were only amateur. We were up against some of the best long distance swimmers in the world. It’s great to put Ireland back up there. Nobody ever told me I was beat. My family, my friends, nobody ever told me I was beat and that’s why I did it,” he said.
Steve’s proud wife Ann, who met her husband at the airport along with daughter Sadhbh and son Stevie, said she was proud and relieved to have him home in one piece. Also on hand to hug the record breaker were his parents Stephen and Margaret, brother Anthony, and sister Margaret.
For Steve, after his mammoth three-year odyssey it was the simple things he was looking forward to the most.
“I’m going to have a pint of Murphy’s and a can of Red Bull and then I am going to go home.”
However, it’s unlikely he will get it that quiet. As bonfires blazed and bands boomed in Ballydehob, Steve got an open-top bus reception in the village.
Martin Swanton, chairman of Ballydehob Community Centre, said there was more to come with a dinner in the Community Hall for 300 next week, guaranteeing a “good night will be had by all”.
Although he’s spent long enough in the water, Steve will be back out at sea in the next three weeks, swimming from Baltimore to the Fastnet and into Schull for the Cork Southwest Autistic Association.