Our equestrian hero Eilish Byrne, a native of Dublin Street, Dundalk, one of our 16 medal winners at the London Paralympics, has been part of the biggest box office sporting successes in recent times.
Millions watched the games on television and 2.7 million tickets were sold.
The coverage also changed virtually everyone’s perception of disabled people.
Ireland won eight golds, three silvers and five bronze at the games, far surpassing the target of five medals.
Eilish’s equestrian success was a bittersweert victory. She narrowly missed out on an individual bronze in the Equestrian Individual Freestyle Test — Grade II at Greenwich Park last week.
“I am absolutely delighted,” said Eilish. “To be fourth in the world is a magnificent feeling.
“I was a little nervous initially but once in the arena I didn’t really worry.
“I was happy and relaxed, lost rhythm a few times but nothing significant. I am not disappointed in any way to finish fourth and I couldn’t asked for anything more from Youri.”
Eilsih, on her horse Youri, recorded a personal best score in her favoured event of 75.25 and it looked like being good enough for bronze right until the end.
Unfortunately she was pipped at the post by the last rider.
“I was a little bit nervous but my canter and trot was good.
“It was really emotional, and for me as I scored a personal best.”
Team manager Dara Kearney was delighted with Eilish’s performance.
“She went for it and I could not ask for more. The riding was beautiful.”
Eilish now lives in Arklow where she is based with her trainer Niall Quirke. Eilish, who was born with spina bifida, has never allowed her disability to stop her from enjoying life to the fullest. Eilish has backpacked through the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and has bungee jumped and scuba dived in all these countries - she has done cave exploring, and many other activities which many able bodied people would find daunting.
Second of five children, Eilish’s family never considered her as “disabled” and she kept up with them all - joining in all the family activities including swimming all day long on summer holidays at Carlingford Lough.
Her parents Peadar and Nora Bryne have always been there to support Eilish and have encouraged her to go for her dreams with no fear of limitation. Eilsish began show jumping when she was 12 but then decided to focus on dressage.