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Ireland's Grand Slam heroes touched down at Dublin Airport shortly after 2.30pm on Sunday with two extra special passengers - the RBS 6 Nations trophy and the Triple Crown.

Over 2,000 Irish supporters were in the arrivals hall to welcome Brian O'Driscoll, Declan Kidney and the victorious Irish squad and management team home and congratulate them on such a thrilling win over Wales.

Photographs were posed for, autographs signed and interviews were done before the squad were cheered onto the waiting bus, which was bound for central Dublin.

Dublin's Deputy Lord Mayor Emer Costello hosted the players, coaches, IRFU officials, family members and friends at a civic reception in the Mansion House on Dawson Street.

IRFU President John Lyons hailed the squad for their 'never say die spirit' and said that 'we're on a sort of odyssey that started for some of the players back in 1999 when we won the Under-19 World Cup with Declan in charge.'

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was in attendance and a number of speeches were made before attentions turned to the stage erected outside on Dawson Street, where an estimated 18,000 fans had turned out to greet the title winners. Hundreds more watched on a giant screen on St. Stephen's Green.

RTE presenter Des Cahill was on hand as the master of ceremonies and he introduced the management team firstly, highlighting the efforts of the men and women behind the scenes whose diligent work played such a part in this memorable season.

Then the players were called up onto the stage, walking the green carpet to the beat of the drummers and divided into backs and forwards.

They received a rapturous welcome, greeted by a crowd in fine voice and a sea of green with flags fluttering in the wind.

Team captain O'Driscoll, who admitted he went to bed at midnight after not feeling the best, said: "It's been fantastic, it's taken a while to settle in.

"It's a fantastic feeling. The bumps and bruises aren't as sore when you're a Grand Slam winner."

Head coach Kidney, still only eight games into his reign, was delighted that the players delivered on their potential.

"I think the honesty and the support of the players shone through yesterday and I think they got their just reward."

Paddy Wallace, a second half replacement in Cardiff, drew laughter when asked about his involvement in the concession of a last-minute penalty which Stephen Jones missed.

"I just felt the game lacked a bit of excitement," he quipped, as his team-mates behind him creased up with laughter.

As celebrations continued around the country, with many fans from the four provinces also making the journey to the Dublin homecoming event, try-scoring winger Tommy Bowe was called forward to 'treat' those present to a version of 'Black Velvet Band.'

The ceremony came to a close with Kidney, O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell raising the trophies aloft as green ticker tape flew through the air and U2's 'Pride (In the Name of Love)' was played over the PA system.

Quite a weekend, I think you will agree.

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19 June 2018
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