All-Ireland finalists welcomed home
What is believed to be one of the biggest ever crowds to welcome home an All-Ireland team gathered in the village of Rathmore, yards inside the Kerry border with Cork and the first train station in the county last night.
The first stop for the special Kerry team train shortly before 6 pm with their 36th title saw local heroes Tom O’Sullivan and Aidan O’Mahony jointly shoulder the Sam Maguire cup onto a special stage alongside the train station to deafening cheers and a sound track of “Simply the best.”
“This cup seems to love this place,” local GAA chairman Eoin Casey remarked to a cheering crowd as the whole team and its selectors ascended the stage.
Tadhg Kennelly’s new career would be as solo dancer, he remarked as the former Sydney Swan’s star danced a jig on stage.
The chairman of Kerry County board reminded his 2,000 strong audience of their dejection in 2008, after the team lost to Tyrone.
“You remember last year and we were here with very long faces. We promised you we’d be back with Sam and here we are.”
Team manager Jack O’Connor thanked supporters by saying: “We needed a lift at times and you gave us that lift.”
Among the so many children who had gathered were the players of tomorrow, he said.
“Ye’ll be up on this stage in ten years time,” he encouraged them
Introduced individually the biggest cheers were reserved for the local men and for Colm Gooch Cooper.
Rathmore club player Aidan O’Mahony — man of the match in 2006 — told supporters who inlcuded several family members: “I told you last year, ye will never have to cross the border to see the Sam Maguire.”
Man of the match for 2009 Tom Sullivan, who like his club mate works as a garda promised to keep his speech short.
“Text it so,” came the riposte from the crowd.
It was extra special to bring Sam across the border — “and we’ll be back again next year,” he said, pretending.
The players were swamped by local children looking for autographs. Tralee saw thousands throng the streets, while Killarney held a fireworks display. The next days will see the cup travel around the county, beginning with Glenbeigh the home club of team captain Darren O’Sullivan.
Meanwhile a dejected Cork squad took part in the traditional homecoming celebrations having taken the train from Dublin at 4pm arriving in Mallow at 6pm and on to Cork’s Kent Station an hour later.
Participating in a homecoming when you are the losing side is a tortuous business and defeat at the hands of rivals and neighbouring county Kerry was almost too much to bear for some younger members of the side.
The defeat was particularly upsetting because the players failed to produce the type of performance that characterised their play all year.
However, the Cork team were appreciative of the warm reception they received from die hard Rebel fans at Mallow station and in Cork city.
The homecoming took place on a stage at Cork’s South Mall at its junction with Parnell Place with in the region of 500 people in attendance. The homecoming was attended by amongst others Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin and Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley.