Celebrations, untarnished by the fallout between the Olympic Council of Ireland and various other bodies, took place yesterday in Katie’s hometown of Bray to honour her crowning as Olympic champion.
Similar events were held in Mullingar and Belfast to mark the other medal successes of boxers John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, and Michael Conlan, and the Irish team’s general performance at the London 2012 Games — one only ever equalled by the five-medal haul in Melbourne in 1956.
The events were a joyous communion between the athletes and the public with little dues paid to the role of officialdom in any of the sporting success.
In Bray, more than 20,000 people packed the promenade to welcome home an emotional Katie Taylor who was accompanied by her father and coach, Peter, as well as her club and Irish boxing colleague, Adam Nolan, and the team’s technical coach, Zaur Antia, who are also based in the Co Wicklow town.
Nolan paid tribute to Ireland’s most successful-ever boxer describing her as “a special person inside and outside the ring”.
Hundreds also lined the streets of Bray as Katie’s homecoming was marked by the traditional arrival in an open-top bus.
Her voice cracked as she tried to describe what such a welcome meant for her and her family on achieving a plan first forged two decades ago.
“I would not be in this situation without all the support I got over the last few years,” said Katie, 26, who again acknowledged the role God has played in her life. To deafening cheers, she claimed her gold medal belonged to everyone in Bray for their prayers.
However, she offered no hint about her future plans which probably don’t extend beyond a much-needed rest and a visit to her 80-year-old grandmother, Kathleen Cranley.
No reference was made about the Taylors’ reported dismay over the debacle of the OCI’s role in homecoming plans.
A crowd of more than 6,000 turned out in Cusack Park in Mullingar last evening to toast local hero and silver medallist, John Joe Nevin. A similar ceremony was staged at Belfast’s Titanic Centre for Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan. They will also be honoured with an open-top bus tour of the city later today.
Meanwhile, the unsavoury squabbling over the staging of events to mark the homecoming continued when a dispute broke out over a backdrop to be used with the athletes at Dublin Airport.
OCI president Pat Hickey insisted the team was “truly happy” to be back home. He also rejected a suggestion that plans to arrange a homecoming event had been shambolic and insisted there had been no fallout with the Taylor camp after it was misreported that Peter Taylor told the sports body he did not want a homecoming in Dublin.
An official homecoming reception for the Olympic team will take place tomorrow at Dublin’s Mansion House at 1pm.