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Thousands of fans told ‘Mayo will rise again’ at homecoming

Large crowds dressed in green and red welcome team at McHale Park in Castlebar

Mayo GAA Fans welcome the Mayo Senior Football team back to McHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus

Close but no coronation. Despite the absence of a fairytale ending to Mayo’s quest for ‘Sam’ 2017, thousands turned out for the team homecoming in Castlebar on Monday evening .

The short route from the railway station to McHale Park, where a tumultuous welcome awaited the team, were by no means boulevards of the brokenhearted.

The green and red clad hordes, although devastated by the result, were delighted that their it hadn’t turned out to be the ‘Mission Impossible’ for their heroes which some pundits had predicted it would be.

After Sunday’s goalscorer, Lee Keegan, and Donal Vaughan, led the team off Corduff’s Coach into McHale Park, local government Minister Michael Ring delivered a lung-busting speech which could probably be heard on the slopes of Croagh Patrick more than twelve miles away.

“Thank you for the enjoyment you have given the county, the country and the world”, the Minister thundered.

Mr Ring conceded the county was deflated by the result but reminded supporters that we had been down also last year but came back in 2017 and got to an All-Ireland. “And we’re going to come back again next year and we’re going to win it next year”, he promised.

Minister Ring made a special plea to team manager Stephen Rochford and his charges — stay together for 2018.

Rochford himself, in a brief speech, gave no hint that he has any intention to abandoning his role as helmsman. “We’re very disappointed”, he confessed, “but with your help we will get through. We are down but not out. Mayo will rise again and we will pursue our goal with even greater passion next year.”

Rochford said his team had put in “a ferocious effort” for the championship and were tremendous ambassadors for the county.”

He warmly congratulated Dublin for winning their third All-Ireland title in a row and ruminated that it had probably been the present Mayo team’s finest year considering the tough games they had to win all summer.

The desire of the team to get away to somewhere quieter and recharge their batteries was evidenced by the brief speech made by their captain, Cillian O’Connor. “Our disappointment is huge”, the captain said. “We went to Croke Park to win. We did everything to make it happen. Unfortunately, it didn’t. That is the harsh reality and we can’t change it now.”

The pain of Sunday’s defeat will linger for the players, O’Connor said. However, he promised that ‘the boys’ will be back for 2018, fully reinvigorated.

If Mayo had won the All-Ireland, bridging a 66 year gap, it had been predicted that the entire county would have come to a standstill. Members of the Garda horseback unit as well as a Garda helicopter crew were on standby to monitor the tens of thousands expected in Mayo if the team had prevailed in its 2017 odyssey.

Publicans in Castlebar reported their largest turnover of the year on Sunday as ticketless supporters and their families turned out to watch the big game on television.

One publican, Dermot Coady, said he had to close his doors between 3 pm and 8pm on Sunday due to the demand. “It was a great day business wise,” Mr. Coady revealed. “It’s a pity the result didn’t turn out right.”