Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

Grand Slam Ireland welcomed home

O'Driscoll/Kidney
Captain Brian O'Driscoll and coach Declan Kidney greet their fans

Thousands of people have turned out to greet Ireland's rugby squad after their Six Nations win in which they clinched their first Grand Slam in 61 years.

The team, which completed a clean sweep after beating Wales 17-15, were given a rapturous welcome at the Mansion House in Dublin.

Captain Brian O'Driscoll, who scored Ireland's first try, said it was a "fantastic feeling".

"You're not as sore as you would have been if you had lost," he said.

Ronan O'Gara described the moments leading up to his dramatic late drop-goal which gave Ireland victory.

"We have a strategy for drop goals, a pattern to play. I was keen to have a crack so I just got straight in front of the posts."

Despite giving Ireland the lead with just a couple of minutes left, a penalty conceded by centre substitute Paddy Wallace gave Wales the chance to snatch a late win.

"I was ready to kill Paddy," O'Gara joked to the crowds.

Donncha O'Callaghan
Ireland's Donncha O'Callaghan is mobbed by fans at Dublin Airport

Wallace quickly replied: "I just felt the game lacked a bit of excitement."

He added: "I felt sheer relief that he missed."

Coach Declan Kidney paid tribute to his team and the supporters who followed the Grand Slam campaign over seven weeks.

Earlier, hundreds of fans greeted the team at Dublin airport.

Ulster players Rory Best and Stephen Ferris said they were "shell-shocked" at the crowds.

"It's awesome isn't it," hooker Rory Best said.

"It's not properly sunk in yet, but it will soon."

Veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer, who set up Ireland's vital winning try against Scotland in the penultimate match, said it was "impossible to take in".

"It's a credit to everyone who has turned out to welcome us home. It's something special, it really is."

SDLP Sports Spokesperson Pat Ramsey MLA has called on the Northern Ireland Sports Minister Gregory Campbell to hold a reception at Stormont for the team.

He said: "The historical achievement by this Irish team must be recognised in Northern Ireland by the Assembly.

Mr Campbell said he will be discussing the any arrangements for marking the achievement with Ulster Rugby Football Union.

Tommy Bowe

Ireland's try-scoring winger Tommy Bowe entertains the thousands of people celebrating Ireland's Grand Slam win



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SEE ALSO
Wales 15-17 Ireland
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Ending six decades of dashed hopes
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