80,000 plus fans pay tribute as Limerick's All Ireland-winning team return home

By David Raleigh

Tens of thousands rocked the home of Limerick hurling as the newly crowned All-Ireland champions arrived home in style with the Liam MacCarthy cup.

Rock hunk Bressie and The Blizzards quickly set paces racing inside the Pairc na nGael hurling cauldron for a spectacular party.

An estimated 80,000 thronged the streets of the Treaty City and inside the Gaelic Grounds to celebrate the end of a 45-year All-Ireland famine.

All-Ireland winning captain Declan Hannon arrives home with the Liam McCarthy Cup. Photo: Don Moloney

The concert celebrations were beamed live to millions across the world via local radio station Limerick’s Live 95fm.

Limerick’s young hurling stars arrived by train into Colbert Station to a roaring welcome from thousands who had lined up at outside the entrance gates.

Little Darragh Connolly, aged eight, quickly became the star of the show, as players lifted him on their shoulders along with the Liam MacCarthy cup.

The All-Ireland Champions joined the thousands at the railway station in an emotional rendition of the county’s hurling anthem "Limerick, You're A Lady".

“I felt so excited when they lifted me up. I just can't believe it, it’s just been a magnificent day,” said a thrilled Connolly.

The pint-sized Ahane clubman, who gripped the All-Ireland trophy in his hands, added: “The tears were coming out of my eyes, lifting Liam... I am so happy.”

Pat Frawley, aged seven, also found himself in front of the crowd with the team.

Riding high on hero Dan Morrisey’s shoulders in front of the thronged masses, Frawley quipped:

It’s brilliant. I'm going to play for Limerick.

James Kirby, aged 73, joined by his wife Mary, we're both in tears as the team proudly showed off their silverware.

“Our son Anthony was aged four in 1973 when we won the All-Ireland final, and yesterday he drove us up to the match. It was great for us all to be there together,” added James, who was in Croke Park for Limerick’s last All-Ireland triumph.

Kieran Harrison, who travelled on team train back to the new capital of hurling, wiped away tears as he joined the players in a rousing rendition of “Sean South from Garryowen”, the city’s historic battle cry.

“When the whistle blew in Croke Park I felt twenty years younger,” said fifty-year-old Harrison.

“My son Mark, whose fifteen, was crying; I was crying; everyone around us was crying.”

The Ahane GAA clubman added: “I will never feel as emotional again in my entire life.”

The team carried Liam aloft on an open-top bus through the city’s streets towards the swaying sea-of-green party already rocking on at Pairc na nGael.

The Limerick Hurling team make their way over Sarsfield Bridge and the river Shannon en route to the homecoming celebrations at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Eamon Ward

Pairc na nGael exploded in sound as the team appeared on stage to 40,000 adoring supporters inside the hallowed GAA grounds.

RTE sports commentator Marty Morrisey didn't need to get the crowd going, but got one of the biggest roars of the night, when he offered: “The biggest party is in Limerick tonight…And you know Marty loves to party.”

Rachel and Mark Cosgrave brought along their children Darragh (5) and Cadhla (9) for the special occasion.

Dressed in their greens and white jerseys, it was “fantastic to be part of such a great day”, Rachel said.

Like seven-year-old Pat Frawley, little Darragh, inspired by his hurling heroes, also pledged: “I'm going to play for Limerick.”

Proud dad Mark, whose nephew Andrew La Touché Cosgrave was part of the All-Ireland Champions panel, added: “We are very emotional.”

The match-like atmosphere along the route from the city to the Gaelic Grounds included the familiar call of street vendors selling “hats, scarfs, and headbands”.

Having seen her team loose out on a back-to-back All-Ireland, Galway vendor Linda Wall joked she was "happy to take the Limerick people’s money” as they had taken away Galway’s title.

“Limerick deserved the win…after all they waited 45 years,” she added.

Brian Collopy, 16, was selling “99 cones with green sauce” from his family-run ice-cream van.

“Business is very good today,” he shouted with his thumbs up.

Legendary hurling hero Richie Bennis, from the Patrickswell club - who helped guide Limerick to All-Ireland glory in 1973, and took Limerick to the All-Ireland Final as team manager in 2007, was visibly relieved “the mantle has now been passed... to these incredible players”.

Former Limerick player and manager Richie Bennis at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

“It's unreal. I thought last year I’d never live to see Limerick win another All-Ireland. Now I hope to see them win a few more,” Bennis added.

Galway native Nora Horkan, who for the past 48 years has lived just a few yards from the Gaelic Grounds, couldn't hide her excitement at her adopted team’s victory over her home county: “When the final whistle blew, the tears were rolling down my face."

"Oh stop, it was unbelievable…really and truly.”

William O'Donoghue raises the Liam McCarthy Cup alongside manager John Kiely and members of the team as the bus makes its way to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Patrickswell clubman and Limerick midfielder Cian Lynch told the crowd: "Words can't describe what this means."

Playing in Croke Park in an All-Ireland Final against Galway was akin to "gladiators battling in a cauldron."

Describing the closed bond built among the Limerick team, he said...."We are all brothers."

The All-Ireland victory is "huge".

It's where we wanted to be. We are at the top, and we are here to stay.

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