SHANNON AIRPORT, Co. Clare: Airports are always full of emotion, the sadness of those departing for another life abroad and the tears of overwhelming joy when loved ones are reunited. The scenes at Shannon Airport this lunchtime, Wednesday, December 17, swelled the hearts of the hundreds of people eagerly awaiting the arrival of WBO middleweight boxing world champion Andy Lee.

Lee, who became world champ in a spectacular ending to a Las Vegas fight against a Russian terrier, Matt Koborov, last Saturday night, landed at Shannon Airport with his beautiful wife and musician Maud Lee, his trainer and coaching team and his very proud family.

Lee's fans stood on the front lines at the arrivals gate on the ground floor of the airport waiting in anticipation for their beloved world boxing hero to walk through those glass doors.

Hundreds of other supporters and media from all over the island of Ireland waited to capture the homecoming image.

People had their phones out ready to get a quick snap of Ireland’s hero. Every time the arrivals door slid open breaths were held in the hope that the next person through the door would be him. The waiting went on for about 30 minutes until finally there was a pause. The commentator with great excitement introduced the latest world champion to the crowd waiting to get a glimpse (see video).

People came from all over the island. A female fan and her mother traveled from Offaly to get that touchdown picture. A teenage boy from Co. Galway waited in the side lines to meet his hero. Nicky Condon, a big fan of Andy’s, took time out of his busy schedule to meet Lee. It was a big day for celebrations.

Finally the doors opened and out walked Andy Lee holding his precious world title belt. It was an emotional sight for all there. Tears welled up in people’s eyes and the crowd went crazy with pride.

Lee was visibly moved when the doors parted, a moment he had dreamed about since he was a child according to one of his first ever boxing coaches and dear friend Ken Moore. There in front of the champ the crowd broke into a deafening applause. The whole airport shook with the noise. Other passengers were quickly realizing something big was happening and they were in the company of a mighty man.

Lee is widely commended not only for his knock-out punches but for his warm and generous personality. He is more than a people’s person. He is a gentleman of the best kind. He makes time for everyone from the media hounding him for the next big story to the little boy who is too small to know he is a hero and everyone in-between.

This author spent some time many years ago in a New York bar celebrating one of Lee's magnificent wins in Madison Square Garden on Paddy's Night with hundreds of fans and the boxer himself. While people were congratulating Lee on his victory in the Garden, Lee himself was a little distracted for a moment. He quickly excused himself from the fans to clear the way for a young gentleman in a wheelchair who was having trouble getting punters to move out of the way so he could get into the bar. No one else noticed the trouble this guy was having. Little did that guy (who was an Italian American if my memory serves me correctly) know whose company he was in that night. Lee is just that kind of guy. He puts others before him and that was completely evident that night in New York.

After spending time taking pictures with his fans in Shannon Airport Lee was given a Garda (police) escort into Limerick City where he was given a civic reception and a public homecoming. Thousands of fans lined the streets to welcome home their champ.

Well done Andy Lee! You’re everyone’s hero.

World middleweight boxing champion Andy Lee photographed returning home victorious last year.Sean Curtin