| 17.1°C Dublin

Green, white and gold Portland Row welcomes home Olympic hero Kellie Harrington as crowds line streets

Irish flags and bunting fluttering from every house, Eye of the Tiger blaring – followed by The Auld Triangle and Grace.

Close

Kellie Harrington displays her Olympic gold boxing medal from an open-top bus near her home on Dublin's Portland Row. Picture: PA

Kellie Harrington displays her Olympic gold boxing medal from an open-top bus near her home on Dublin's Portland Row. Picture: PA

Kellie Harrington displays her Olympic gold boxing medal from an open-top bus near her home on Dublin's Portland Row. Picture: PA

PORTLAND Row was buzzing.

Oh my God. Deadly,” said one local woman as she rounded the corner to be greeted by the sight of a carnival in full flow.

Irish flags and bunting fluttering from every house, Eye of the Tiger blaring – followed by The Auld Triangle and Grace.

Pizzas appeared, courtesy of a sponsor, and were handed around.

Every kid on the street was fizzed up like a can of cola, replica gold medals around their necks, waving tricolours.

Close

Huge crowds turned out to show their appreciation for Kellie Harrington in her home community of Portland Row, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Huge crowds turned out to show their appreciation for Kellie Harrington in her home community of Portland Row, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Huge crowds turned out to show their appreciation for Kellie Harrington in her home community of Portland Row, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Teenage boys earnestly discussed the likely arrival time of the open-topped bus. Nobody was too cool to get involved in this great celebration.

Older residents sat out in their front gardens, wide smiles across their faces at the sudden explosion of life and colour after some of the saddest, grey days in living memory.

This was what they had been waiting for.

Close

Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington, alongside Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, waving from the top of an open-top bus on Portland Row, Dublin, this afternoon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington, alongside Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, waving from the top of an open-top bus on Portland Row, Dublin, this afternoon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington, alongside Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, waving from the top of an open-top bus on Portland Row, Dublin, this afternoon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

They had known Kellie could do it, said Lily Fagan, who is affectionately known as the Queen of Portland Row.

“I’m exhausted, delighted. This is Kellie’s day. What she did in nine minutes for this country, the Government couldn’t do in 20 years,” she declared.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Shortly before 5pm, the Garda helicopter appeared in the sky and a whoop went up.

The golden girl was on her way.

Crowds lined the street all the way down to the famous Five Lamps – lit in green, white and orange to mark this special occasion.

Close

Crowds erupt as Irish Olympic boxing gold medalist Kellie Harrington passes on an open top bus during a parade down her home street of Portland Row in Dublin City. Picture: PA

Crowds erupt as Irish Olympic boxing gold medalist Kellie Harrington passes on an open top bus during a parade down her home street of Portland Row in Dublin City. Picture: PA

Crowds erupt as Irish Olympic boxing gold medalist Kellie Harrington passes on an open top bus during a parade down her home street of Portland Row in Dublin City. Picture: PA

Then a roar went up as the purple open-topped bus rounded the corner. Kellie was at the back giving a thumbs-up followed by a triumphant raised fist.

She had earlier joked about having no tears left to cry, but when she saw this display of support by her community, she was overwhelmed.

She blew kisses to the friends who stood outside her house and wiped away the tears that flowed.

Beside her, friends including Dublin footballer Michael Darragh Macauley were drinking in this incredible atmosphere.

Within a few precious moments it was all over. Covid regulations meant the bus could not stop or else it would become “an event” – and so Kellie Harrington had to keep on the move.

But everyone waited – she would be back.

Close

Olympic heroes Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo to their community in the North Inner City of Dublin on an open top bus, showcasing her Gold Medal. Picture: Conor McCabe

Olympic heroes Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo to their community in the North Inner City of Dublin on an open top bus, showcasing her Gold Medal. Picture: Conor McCabe

Olympic heroes Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo to their community in the North Inner City of Dublin on an open top bus, showcasing her Gold Medal. Picture: Conor McCabe

Sure enough, she returned a short time later and the chants of “ole ole ole” went up. This time, Kellie was laughing and cheering, loving it all.

Someone threw up a Simba toy – a nod to her ‘Hakuna Matata” quote from the Lion King. She caught the toy cleanly, too. As she held it aloft, the place erupted.

And then it really was over.

Kellie returns Close

Olympic heroes  Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo

Olympic heroes Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo

10 August 2021; Gold medallist Kellie Harrington with Mel Leonard of St Mary's Boxing Club, Tallaght, at Dublin Airport as Team Ireland's boxers return from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

10 August 2021; Gold medallist Kellie Harrington with Mel Leonard of St Mary's Boxing Club, Tallaght, at Dublin Airport as Team Ireland's boxers return from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington supporter Elaine McCann, from Portland row

Kellie Harrington supporter Elaine McCann, from Portland row

Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington on an open top bus tour

Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington on an open top bus tour

Kellie Harrington and Aidan Walsh wave from the top of an open top bus on Portland Row

Kellie Harrington and Aidan Walsh wave from the top of an open top bus on Portland Row

Olympic Gold Medal champion Kellie Harrington has an emotional homecoming

Olympic Gold Medal champion Kellie Harrington has an emotional homecoming

Richard Smithers and 'Bailey' welcome home Olympic Gold Kellie Harrington

Richard Smithers and 'Bailey' welcome home Olympic Gold Kellie Harrington

Olympic Gold Kellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan

Olympic Gold Kellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan

An emotional Team Ireland women's lightweight gold medallist Kellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan

An emotional Team Ireland women's lightweight gold medallist Kellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan

10 AuKellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan pass through Portland Row in Dublin on their return from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games

10 AuKellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan pass through Portland Row in Dublin on their return from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games

Gold medallist Kellie Harrington with Anna Moore, friend and IABA Official, at Dublin Airport

Gold medallist Kellie Harrington with Anna Moore, friend and IABA Official, at Dublin Airport

/

Olympic heroes Kellie Harrington with Emmet Brennan celebrate their homecoming from Tokyo

But it’s only the start of things for Portland Row.

The preparations had been under way for hours.

A man up in a cherry picker was wrestling a tricolour garland of balloons from one side of the road to another.

Another cherry picker was outside Kellie Harrington’s house stringing a giant banner across the road.

“You’re a lollipop lady today,” someone shouted over to local woman Adrienne Gately, who had suddenly found herself directing traffic. Adrienne shook her head in grim enjoyment.

A van driver laughed at the glorious chaos of it all. Car horns honking in joyful abandon. Even just passing through, nobody could be in a bad mood around here today.

It was Wonderland, and the atmosphere was memorable.

Four gardaí from the mounted unit appeared and all of a sudden it was like the St Patrick’s Day parade.

In fact, St Patrick himself was right up the street in a green beard.

“We couldn’t have the St Paddy’s Day parade for the last two years and now we have it,” said Terry Grenigan, one of the community organisers. “When she passes by in the bus, Kellie will be sobbing because she knows us all.”

Every house had chipped in €25 to rent the huge plasma screen to watch the boxing match, he said.

He was delighted, particularly for local kids, a sentiment echoed by many of the Portland Row neighbours and by a community garda who said: “It’ll give all the kids the push to live their dreams.”

Four doors up, Michaela Dunne has grown up with Kellie. “What was she like? She was like the rest of us – mad,” she laughed.

She remembers a swing on the lamppost up the road they used to play on.

They would knock on neighbours’ doors and ask if they wanted anything from the shop. If there was nothing needed from the shop, they would offer to mind the kids.

“We thought that was great,” said Michaela.

Down the road, Kellie’s house was a shrine.

Sunflowers stood by the door and piper Christy O’Brien, of the UN Veterans’ Association, was waiting to play Kellie’s favourite song, The Wild Colonial Boy.

“It’s the one she sang at the Mansion House when she got the silver. And she sings it very well I believe,” said Kellie’s dad, Christy.

Kellie had wanted to spend the night on Portland Row, neighbours said.

But she was persuaded to “let the madness die down”.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy