Olympic hero and villain

An Irish showjumper has returned home to a hero’s welcome after clinching the country’s only medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Meanwhile, an Irish priest who attacked the athlete leading the men’s marathon has been threatened with having his passport revoked.

However, the country will prefer to remember the surprise accomplishment of the 24-year-old Cian O’Connor and his horse, Waterford Crystal who won gold with a final clear round in the individual showjumping final.

The Kildare man said that receiving the gold medal, had been the “most emotional moment of my life.”

“I felt very proud to be Irish,” he said on his return to Dublin airport.

Irish sports minister John O’Donoghue paid tribute to O’Connor and the other members of the Irish squad amid controversy over the otherwise lacklustre performance of Irish athletes in Athens.

“I would like to thank each and every one of them for the efforts which they have put in,” he said.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahernepaid tribute to Mr O’Connor’s medal-winning performance as one of “enormous courage and determination”. He said the win was a victory that everyone in Ireland could be proud of.

No-one, however, was proud of the bizarre intervention of Father Cornelius Horan, from County Kerry, who shoved a Brazilian athlete into barriers at the 22-mile mark of the men’s marathon.

He was wearing a kilt, green waistcoat and beret and carrying a placard bearing the words “The second coming is near says the Bible” during last night’s incident.

“The man says he is Irish, he is also drunk. He had been to a taverna earlier,” a police spokesman said.

Fr Horan, who also caused havoc when he walked onto the track during the British Formula 1 Grand Prix last year, has since vowed to end his notorious campaign to publicise his religious beliefs.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News