Move over Taylor Swift, Leona Maguire has her very own girl squad. The golfer (26), who was instrumental in Europe’s Solheim Cup win in Toledo, Ohio, this evening received a raucous homecoming in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.
nd by her side was her 94-year-old granny Kathleen.
The pair were driven through the town in an open-top car, escorted by a fire engine with sirens blaring and a cavalcade of tooting cars carrying family and friends.
“It’s great to see everyone out,” said a beaming Kathleen when they finally arrived at the Slieve Russell Hotel golf course where hundreds gathered to cheer their hero.
“It’s incredible to see all the people here,” said Leona.
“My phone has been on the hop the last few days.”
The reaction to her sensational performance in the US has been “overwhelming”, she said.
“It’s been a tough few years the last few years, hopefully we gave people something to cheer about.”
However, her dad Declan pointed that to get to this point is years in the making.
“It looks glamorous on the outside…but there’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice behind the scenes,” he said.
Leona’s twin sister Lisa was by her side in Toledo, and Leona credited their years of challenging each other on the Slieve Russell course with giving her the edge at the weekend.
“With a twin you end up being very competitive,” she admitted, “and I think that competitiveness came out (at the Solheim Cup”.
With Covid-19 preventing European fans from travelling to the US to support their team, Team Europe found themselves on the back foot.
“We didn’t have a lot of support over there, but we knew everyone here was behind us,” said Leona.
“We knew a lot of people were rooting for us from afar.”
Among those fans was Muireann Byrne (9) who, along with her dad Peter, was out early to welcome Leona home to Ballyconnell.
“She came to our school today and she was great,” said Muireann who is in third class at Castletara NS.
And she had more reason than most to thank Leona after the golfer ensured everyone got a homework pass. With the principal being Leona’s dad, he could hardly object.
Also among the crowds was local man Hugh Farrell who said Leona had given the entire country a lift.
“It means a lot. We haven’t really got to feel the depth of it yet emotionally but maybe we will now when we see her coming home,” he said.
“She’s so young and for her to bring such honour to the area and the country is great.”
Leona arrived home yesterday morning, and after a day of celebration she will enjoy a week and a half at home relaxing – before she jets off to her next round of tournaments in the US.
She made headlines around the world for her stunning performance in Toledo, achieving four and a half points from a possible five.
She revealed that golfer Paul McGinley rang her before the event and offered her advice and encouragement.
There were a large number of children among the crowd, and she said she hoped her success would encourage them to pick up a golf club and give it a go.
She said on social media last night: “To all the little girls with big dreams… chase them. It won’t be easy – but I promise you it’s worth it.”
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