US President Joe Biden declared himself "Mayo Joe, son of Ballina" in a deeply personal speech during his homecoming in the Mayo town on Friday night. 

Around 27,000 people gathered in Ballina as Biden spoke at length about his Blewitt ancestors, who emigrated to Scranton, Pennsylvania, during the Irish Famine in the 1850s. 

Crowds had been gathering in Ballina since the early afternoon and swelled as Irish groups the Academics, the Coronas, and the Chieftains took the stage in the heavy rain. 

There were huge cheers from the crowd as Marine One and two Chinook helicopters flew into the town toward the end of the Chieftains' special comeback concert, while there was a humorous sigh of exasperation when the announcer revealed that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would be addressing the crowd before Biden's speech. 

Finally, though, it was time for Biden's homecoming. 

Walking onto the stage with a spring in his step as "Shipping Home to Boston" blared throughout the town, Biden said it "feels like coming home". 

The US President spoke in detail about his great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt, stating that he sold 27,000 bricks to St. Muredach's Cathedral in 1827. The cathedral formed an impressive backdrop for Biden's speech on Friday night. 

He also spoke about his Blewitt ancestors left Ireland on board the Excelsior for a new life in the United States. 

Biden spoke about his chance encounter with Fr. Frank O'Grady, who performed the last rites for his son Beau, during a visit to Knock Shrine earlier on Friday and also remarked about how "special" it was to see a plaque dedicated to Beau at the Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar. 

The President noted that a part of his son's legacy "lived with his ancestors". 

Biden once again said that he believed Irish people are the only people who are "nostalgic about the future", adding that the Irish "always believe in a better tomorrow".

"No matter what we always carry hope in our hearts. Our strength is something that overcomes everyday hardships, and above all our courage allows us to march forward in faith." 

Biden told the crowd that he has "never been more optimistic" and said it is a "time of enormous possibilities". 

"My friends, people of Mayo, this is a moment to recommit our hearts, our minds, and souls to the march of progress. To lay the foundations brick by brick for a better future for our kids and grandkids.

"One of greater liberty, opportunity, and dignity, just like our ancestors did for us.

"I’ve never been more optimistic and I’ve been doing this a long time, about what we can achieve if we stick together and stick to our values." 

Biden called on the US and Ireland to work together on global issues such as hunger and poverty. 

"Ireland's famous 40 shades of green now includes green energy and green jobs." 

He also thanked the Irish public for their "incredible generosity" in opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees. 

Biden remarked that 32 million Americans claim Irish heritage and joked that "more would if they could". 

Biden ended his speech by declaring "Mayo for Sam", drawing huge cheers from the 27,000-strong crowd. Mayo have not won Sam Maguire - the All Ireland football trophy - since 1951 and many locals are hoping that the President's visit will finally lift the 72-year-old curse. 

The President also paid tribute to former Irish President Mary Robinson - a native of Ballina - during the address and said fellow Ballina native Dr. Norah Patten may become Ireland's first ever astronaut.