Northern Ireland news

A St Patrick's Day fairytale for Irish rugby

Rugby superfan Jennifer Malone and Ireland's Peter O'Mahony

THE Ireland rugby team's homecoming celebrations were cancelled yesterday due to the bad weather - but it would take more than a drop of snow to lower spirits.

It was a fairytale St Patrick's Day on Saturday for Irish rugby fans, as Joe Schmidt's men in green stormed to victory over England at Twickenham, securing their third ever grand slam.

Despite the odd bit of snow and rain, the Guinness flowed, flags were flown and there was an Irish invasion of fans in pubs near the stadium in south west London, the home of English rugby.

In a statement, Irish president Michael D Higgins said Rory Best's team had "secured a place in sporting history" and "will be remembered for generations to come".

"Today's Grand Slam victory for the Irish rugby team in Twickenham, on our national day, is a fantastic achievement and source of encouragement, not only for the team and their coaches, but for all of us who enjoy and support Irish sport," he added.

"As president of Ireland, I congratulate the team, the coaching staff and all those who have supported the players and thank them for the wonderful memory they have gifted us on what will be a Saint Patrick's Day never to be forgotten by all those who appreciate excellence in sport and matters Irish."

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "Congratulations to Rory and his team of inspirational players. #6Nations and Grand Slam CHAMPIONS!"

"Grand Slam, Paddy's day, in London, vs England. Unreal," Belfast boxer Carl Frampton wrote.

Following the trophy-raising ceremony after Saturday's game, Munster flanker Peter O'Mahony ensured it was a day to remember for one superfan.

The 28-year-old spotted Jennifer Malone in the stands and he brought her onto the pitch to give her his winner's medal.

Jennifer, from Kildare, is a regular at Irish training sessions and made sporting headlines back in 2016 when she captured the hearts of GAA fans after being pictured consoling Waterford's Pauric Mahony after their defeat by Kilkenny in their All-Ireland semi-final replay.

Thousands of jubilant fans were expected to welcome the champions at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon, however on Sunday morning the IRFU advised that the event has been cancelled due to heavy snow.

In a statement, the IRFU said: "We regret to advise that the Grand Slam Homecoming celebrations has been cancelled due to adverse weather.

"Irish Rugby would like to thank their supporters for their continued support throughout this campaign."

The event was due to kick off at 4.30pm when Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, skipper Rory Best and the rest of the squad were to take to the stage to be introduced to the crowd.

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