Homecoming is a surreal experience for Olympic medallist Walsh

Aidan Walsh (left) and his coach Paul Johnston at Dublin Airport, as the last of the Irish Olympic athletes return from Tokyo Picture: Damien Storan/PA Wire
By Anthony Gunning

HAVING arrived in Dublin Airport to a rapturous welcome from friends and family, Aidan Walsh says it was a surreal feeling as it has always been him on the other side of the barrier to welcome past Olympic heroes home.

The West Belfast man and his sister Michaela were greeted by their parents, Martine and Damien, plus relatives, partners and club coach at Monkstown ABC, Paul Johnston as they arrived back from Tokyo yesterday afternoon.

Walsh's bronze medal performance at the Games saw him go from relative unknown outside of boxing circles a month ago to household name and as modest as ever, said that being part of the seven-strong team that included Michaela was the main thing he has taken from the experience.

"It seems so surreal," the 24-year-old said on a media call shortly after arriving back in Ireland.

"All of those people standing there when it's usually me in the crowd to support other people. To be standing on the other side of it is crazy, but I just feel extremely lucky and grateful.

"All of the team deserve to be standing here with a medal, but first and foremost I'm an Olympian alongside my sister and a great team - everything else is a bonus."

Walsh was not on many people's radar to even be at the Games that were initially due to be held last year as his first Irish Elite title came at the tail-end of 2019.

However, he took his opportunity's making huge strides in such a short space of time to force his way into the team that went to the Qualifiers that were initially abandoned in March 2020 before resuming in June this where he punched his ticket to Tokyo.

Two wins secured a bronze and only an ankle injury prevented him from taking on Pat McCormack in the semi-final.

"I have to pinch myself because I've come so far in such a short space of time," he admitted.

"I've always been boxing behind the scenes, but all I needed was the opportunity and my club coach at Monkstown, Paul Johnston, has helped me massively.

"In terms of how long I've been on the Irish team, it's only been a few years and to come away with a medal is amazing.

"With the Qualifiers being so close (to the Games), the last year has been so continuous with the boxing so I'm looking forward to taking it easy and relaxing for a few days to get back to normality.

"I'm going to go to my caravan at Carnlough with my girlfriend; have a Chinese, a tin of Coke and lots of sweets. I haven't had sweets in so long so I'd love a packet of Haribo."

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