Wednesday 23 October 2019

A hero's welcome

HAVING BLAZED a trail to London, it was 'Dancing at the Crossroads' on Sunday evening when Adam Nolan was given a hero's welcome on his return to his native Ballagh.

With banners of welcome home to their hero seen throughout the small half-parish on a single road through the countryside, at 7.30 p.m. Nolan eventually arrived in an open top car accompanied by family members and supporters, headed by members of the Oulart-the Ballagh Senior hurling and Senior camogie teams, all of whom have brought sporting glory to the parish.

As the evening moved on, with the showers staying away for the occasion, the numbers began to increase as both sides of the road were lined, all seeking a vantage point to welcome their young hero home after his marvellous sporting exploits in Turkey in qualifying for the London Olympics.

Music filled the air and soon the ground where the stand stood was filled with young and old with broad smiles on their faces, putting the economic woes to one side as they grasped the hand of Adam Nolan, showering congratulations and hugs on a now sporting giant.

It was an emotion-filled evening. Adam was clearly overcome by the welcome, as he shook hands on both sides, never missing a beat to greet his neighbours and friends. It was an evening never to be forgotten in the half-parish of The Ballagh who really know how to welcome a local hero. Scenes like this have not been witnessed in The Ballagh since the return of the Liam Maccarthy Cup in 1996 when Wexford were captained by local hurling hero, Martin Storey, who was present to greet his neighbour and colleague, Adam.

It was an evening when the boxing fraternity turned out in force for an occasion that brings the sport to the forefront in the county.

Present was Jim O'sullivan, ten-times Irish heavyweight champion, a record only equalled by Kenny Egan, a silver medalist in the last Olympics; world ladies' champion, Katie Taylor, who boxes out of the Bray club with Adam, and who does most of her roadwork and gym training in the company of Adam; her father Pete, coach to Adam; Bernard Dunne; Billy O'connor, County Chairman; and locals Martin O'connor and Willie Cullen, who brought All-ireland Junior titles to the parish in the past.

Also present was Fr. Lory Kehoe, a great supporter of Adam and the family, Very Rev. Hugh O'byrne, politicians John Browne and Paul Kehoe, and Richard 'Butch' O'connor, Chairman of the local G.A.A. club.

Taking pride of place on the stand were Adam's parents, John and Ann, his brother Darren, who helps out in Adam's corner but is better known for his achievements on the hurling fields with Oulart-the Ballagh having helped them to their three-in-a-row, and sister Leanne, who herself enjoyed sporting glory early last month as a substitute with Oulart-the Ballagh when they won a first-ever All-ireland Senior camogie club title. A special welcome was afforded to Adam's grandmother, Mai Devereux from Castlebridge, but his grandfather Paddy, whom this great achievement was attributed to, was unable to attend.

As Michael O'grady, one of the chief organisers of the homecoming along with Martin O'connor, proudly told the people:'it's a great night to be a Wexford person, but an even greater night to be a Ballagh person.

'Up to now if one mentioned The Ballagh name, people would ask where is that? But come July everyone will know where The Ballagh is. It's wonderful to have Adam home with a gold medal. We look forward to welcoming him home in August with a medal.'