KILKENNY’S four Olympians received a great reception from their friends, family and supporters at the official welcome home event for them at the Watershed on Saturday evening.
Mayor of the city, Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin praised Joanne and Catriona Cuddihy, Darren O’Neill and Arthur Lanigan O’Keefe for bringing glory on the city and county. He said that Joanne Cuddihy, who had devoted all of her childhood to athletics, had in her second Olympics proved her immense character. “She can be immensely proud, especially of her second leg of the 4 by 400 metre relay event when she brought the team from eighth to fifth and within touching distance of qualification for the final, proving that she is not only a gifted individual athlete, but a real team player.
“As a primary school principal I can attest to Joanne’s generosity with her time as the talks she gave to children in my school and in her own alma mater in St. Canice’s National School in the run-up to the games inspired all those who heard her.
“Your performance off the track in front of the TV cameras, Joanne, was even more impressive and the dignified way you handled yourself in the face of disappointment was great to see. I sincerely hope that we will see you in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and that you get the precious metal you so richly deserve.
He said that for sister Catríona, the road was only beginning. “We all hoped against hope that we would see Ireland’s first ever relay run involving two sisters but it is in the nature of team sports that hard choices have to be made by coaches. Again, we hope that the sprinting sisters will travel together again to Rio doing your family, who have given so much to sport in Kilkenny just rewards.
“For Darren O’ Neill, I am truly proud of a fellow teacher who showed such incredible powers of leadership in London. Your family and the proud people of Paulstown are immensely proud of you Darren. The achievement s of Paulstown boxing club are a huge credit to your Dad Ollie and all of the O’ Neill family and others who have created a club which any big city would be proud of. We were gutted at your missing out so narrowly on reaching the medal stages, but it was in your captaincy of our Olympic boxing team that you really shone. It was quite obvious from Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes that they looked up to your inspirational leadership and that you played almost as big a role in their success as Billy Walsh did. You did us all proud.
“Finally to Arthur Lanigan O’ Keeffe, what a wonderful 24 hours this has been for Warrington pony club and equestrian centre and for all involved in equestrian sports in Kilkenny. I know that you will have been one of the first Arthur to congratulate your inspiration and friend Richie Moloney on his wonderful double clear yesterday in the RDS which helped to bring home the Aga Khan trophy after such a long wait. But it was in Warrington that I saw the signs recently of a young man whose patience and tenacity would pay off so richly. We all remember you welcoming a large group of your fellow athletes to train in the centre in which you have spent so much of your life, although you had not, at that time, qualified yourself. We were all delighted when that opportunity came so late for you to become an Olympian and you did yourself really proud on your Olympic debut,” he said of Arthur.