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Thousands welcome Irish slam winners

THOUSANDS of fans streamed into Dublin's city center on Sunday to welcome Ireland's rugby team home after it clinched its first grand slam victory in 61 years.

Supporters from across Ireland, many waving Irish flags and wearing their team's green jersey, cheered and danced at a homecoming celebration for the team at Dublin's historic Mansion House, the Lord Mayor's residence.

The 17-15 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in the Six Nations finale on Saturday helped boost spirits in Ireland which is facing its worst recession this year with rising unemployment.

Flyhalf Ronan O'Gara dropped the winning goal three minutes from time to seal his side's first grand slam win since 1948.

"This has really given everyone in the whole country a boost ?? we need it," said Fran O'Neill, 44, who travelled to the event from Kildare, which is close to Dublin.

Coach Declan Kidney told fans it had been a great journey for the team in recent weeks.

Ireland defeated France and England at home and won away against Scotland and Italy.

"It's a special time to be involved in rugby. I think the boys are enjoying it," Kidney said.

Ireland's captain Brian O'Driscoll said it had taken a while for the victory to sink in.

"It's a fantastic feeling waking up this morning: you're not as sore as you would be if you'd lost," he said.


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