Rio 2016 Paralympics: Ireland team receives heroes' homecoming in Dublin

Irish Paralympic team hailed on return from Rio

Ireland's Paralympic team received a heroes' homecoming at Dublin Airport on Wednesday as they returned from the Rio Games with 11 medals.

Glengormley man Michael McKillop, who retained his T37 1500m title in Rio, described the turnout of family, friends and fans as "incredible".

"I've just met a young girl and her mum who left home from Ballycastle at six this morning," said McKillop, 26.

"They came here just to see me. That's very emotional for me."

The county Antrim runner and his Rio room-mate, sprint star Jason Smyth both received huge cheers as they emerged together into the arrivals hall.

McKillop's retention of his 1500m title saw him earning the fourth Paralympic gold of his career while Eglinton man Smyth, 29, took a fifth gold in his third Games as he dominated the T13 100m final.

Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth emerge into the arrival halls at Dublin Airport
Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth talked their way into business class on their flight from Rio

NI duo 'blag' way into business class on Rio flight

The Northern Irish duo were looking remarkably fresh after the long journey and McKillop revealed that they both had "blagged" their way into business class on the flight from Sao Paulo after dropping in a mention of their gold medal successes.

"Today's turnout is very humbling and it shows the movement of Paralympic sport within the island of Ireland," added McKillop, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy.

"Yes, Jason and me have been spearheading it. We've unbeaten in a decade over three Paralympic Games and we've set the stall up but you can see the amount of Irish athletes winning medals now. It's quite incredible."

Smyth was greeted by his wife Elise and 10-month daughter Evie, who burst into tears amid the cheering in the arrivals hall.

"She's not used to all that screaming so she started crying," laughed the county Londonderry man.

"But it's just great to be back. Three weeks is a long time to be away, especially when she is that small."

Michael McKillop was prevented from defending his T37 800m title after the event was removed from the Rio athletics programme
Michael McKillop retained his T37 1500m title in Rio

McKillop and Smyth aim to compete at Tokyo 2020

Both Northern Irishmen intend to prolong their Paralympics careers until the next games in Tokyo and McKillop reckons the Japanese capital would be an appropriate place and time to end his racing days.

"I hope and pray that I will be in Tokyo. That's where I want to retire."

His girlfriend Nicole wasn't able to travel to Rio but McKillop wants her to be with him, "when she will be my wife", when he rounds off his glittering Paralympic career in four years.

Visually-impaired Smyth, whose Stargardt's condition means he has less than 10% vision, has never lost a race at Paralympic level in his 11-year career.

"If I could get through my entire Paralympics career unbeaten, that for me would be a pretty impressive achievement."