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Irish athletes return with medal haul from European Games

Team Ireland are back in Dublin, after picking up seven medals at successful European Games in Minsk.

The 35-strong squad landed at Dublin Airport shortly after 11.20am this morning, before emerging to family and friends at the Area 14 Arrivals Hall in Terminal 1 just after noon.

Led by Boxer Kurt Walker who picked up Gold in the Bantamweight Divisions, competitors in Boxing, Badminton and Cycling emerged to rapturous cheers from the large crowd of family and friends which had gathered, along with officials from the various sports.

Olympic Federation of Ireland President Sarah Keane said the achievements of the athletes were something certainly to be proud of.

"I want to say a big congratulations to all of the athletes, and all of the team that supported them," she said.

"A big thank you to everyone involved and congratulations to you all.

"I spoke before the athletes went out about the learnings you were going to take from this, and we will be doing our full de-brief. but from your own perspective this is only part of your journey.

"Whether that journey is for Tokyo 2020 or onwards, it is important that we all take away and reflect on how this week has gone for everybody.

"We have had medals which have been fantastic, we have had several people who have been agonisingly close to medals, but we have had lifetime bests, and season bests - we have had national records.

"Everybody in this team has participated and contributed in their own way. The vision of the Olympic Federation of Ireland is to inspire the Irish nation through the performances of our Irish Olympians - young and old, new and experienced and I think these guys have done themselves proud in that regard."

Team Ireland boxer Kurt Walker with his nephew Rio. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ballymena man Walker was delighted to return with a Gold medal, and says the win was surreal.

"It's hard to explain it, it's just the result of a lot of hard work and I'm still not finished yet. Tokyo is the end goal and I just need to keep going.

"That was a stepping stone for me and hopefully the best is yet to come.

"It's given me a lot of confidence. We have been working so hard for years in that gym and it shows what can be achieved. It makes you hungrier as well.

Fellow boxer Kellie Harrington returned with a Silver medal, and says it was great to return to such a brilliant reception.

It was brilliant to come home and to see all my family and friends and club coaches here today.

It was a disappointing finish to the games for the Dubliner, who withdrew through injury, but still finished with a medal.

"It was disappointing, but there's a bigger picture," she said.

"It's onwards and upwards. There's no point in going out and further damaging my hand. I'm not going to dwell on it because I have a European Silver medal.

"It's a massive achievement, while I'm disappointed and disheartened I'm also very, very happy and I am very proud of myself and my club."