It was a 20th anniversary that literally stumbled over the needle in the haystack. Annacotty, Limerick, native Shane Clifford could be forgiven for spending all weekend playing the lotto after a stroke of huge coincidence landed with his United Airlines flight at Shannon Airport.
The Newark flight was receiving the celebratory water canon salute to mark the anniversary as it pulled on to the taxiway at Shannon when the penny dropped for the father of three that he was actually on the very first United flight that departed Shannon 20 years ago.
“You never really expect things to come full circle in life and it’s scary when they do,” he laughed as he explained the incredible coincidence. “The pilot announced to us when we landed that the aircraft would be getting the water cannon salute and it then dawned on me that I was on the very first flight from here with United 20 years ago.
“I left Shannon after graduating from UL in 1998 and never intended to stay in the States but life takes you a different path and I’m there 20 years now, happily married with three children. The last thing I expected when I landed in Shannon was that I would be getting free coffee and croissants to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a flight that took me out of here in the first place.”
Shane, who works in financial services in New York and lives in New Jersey with his wife Tricia and three sons, Liam, Owen and Sean, is back in Ireland to attend a wedding of former UL college mate and adventurer Paul Gleeson, well known for his rowing exploits, including his Atlantic crossing of 2006.
The Limerick man wasn’t the only passenger getting attention as another to disembark was one of American football’s best known stars, JJ Watt, of the Houston Texans, who was jetting into the West of Ireland for a short break.