Behind the scenes with Ireland's Special Olympics heroes

It's the feelgood story that has everything - tears of joy, sporting triumph, Gangnam Style, a South Korean GAA team and random cake.

Team Ireland will be arriving back to a heroes' welcome in Dublin Airport this evening following a hugely successful Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea, where they bagged an impressive haul of 12 medals.

A huge crowd of wellwishers is expected to greet the athletes, and in the meantime, we've had a look behind the scenes at the Games, thanks to our friends at Special Olympics Ireland.

Huge congratulations to all, and we hope you enjoy!

(ON OUR WAY: The team leaving Dublin Airport on January 25. Picture: SPORTSFILE)

Locals get behind Team Ireland

Team Ireland were a great success at the games, winning 12 medals as well as the hearts of the locals and other Irish people out there.

The events took place in Pyeongchang and Team Ireland arrived at the host town a few days before the games started to check out the local scene at Seoul Women’s University where they were staying.

From the off, they made a big impression on the locals, as can be seen by some of the tweets from Floorball coach Martin O'Leary.

They also got to meet the Irish Ambassador to South Korea, or rather he got to meet Team Ireland.

Pyeongchang is about three hours from Seoul, but this didn't deter the students from Seoul University from getting up at 4am last Thursday morning to support the South Korean Floorball team in the bronze medal match against Team Ireland.

However, Team Ireland had managed to win over the local fans who cheered them at the end as they won the game 11-1 to take the bronze.

(Local support for the lads. Picture: Special Olympics Ireland)

(They even brought cake!)

(Brendan O'Sullivan and Paul O’Callaghan celebrate their medals. Picture: SPORTSFILE)

Little did the spectators know that the lads from the floorball gang had a surprise for them at the medal ceremony.

(Joseph McCarthy, William McGrath, Brendan O'Sullivan and George Fitzgerald) show off their bronze medals 'Gangnam Style' at the presentation ceremony. Picture: SPORTSFILE)

Here's a great video of the victory:

Seoul Gaels come out in force

It was the turn of our skiers last weekend and the the local GAA club in South Korea, Seoul Gaels, joined the South Korean students to add to the chorus of support.

(The Irish entourage on the slopes. Picture: Special Olympics Ireland)

(Rosalind Connolly with students from Seoul Women's University. Picture: Special Olympics Ireland)

( The gang with Sr. Teresa O’Connell, a member of the Columban Sisters, from Castletownroche, Co Cork. Picture: Special Olympics Ireland)

Lucy Best, from Lisburn, Co. Antrim, is overcome after being presented with her bronze medal on Sunday in the intermediate giant slalom. Picture: SPORTSFILE

And the Irish Embassy retweeted this pic of Lucy and her mam.

You can watch the Alpine Skiing crew on that triumphant weekend here:

Alas, it had to end. Here are the stars at the airport in South Korea making their way home on Wednesday morning.

And here is the welcome they got in Dublin that night.

We think Matt English, Chief Executive Special Olympics Ireland sums it up well: “I would like to pay tribute to every member of Team Ireland for representing us all so well at these prestigious Games and for being such wonderful sporting ambassadors Ireland”.

We'll leave the final word to John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council: “We are all very proud of the Irish team’s performances in South Korea. Everyone put in a terrific personal display and it is a bonus to come home with medals.

"I want to pay tribute to the athletes, the support staff at Special Olympics Ireland and to all the family members and volunteers who worked so hard to make this sporting adventure possible”.

Well done to all concerned, and thanks for the memories.

Most Read in #Discover