Sam returns to Donegal for the first time in 20 years

It was the moment that all Donegal supporters waited 20 years for as the Sam Maguire Cup made it's way back to the county shortly after 8pm tonight.

The victorious All-Ireland Champions along with their management team and officials walked across the border into Pettigo to a rapturous welcome.

300 people gathered in the small village, where they heard from manager Jim McGuinness and captain Michael Murphy.

The entourage earlier stopped in Cavan at the Hotel Kilmore where hundreds of supporters gathered, while they also passed through Fermanagh, the home of selector Rory Gallagher.

Just after 10.15pm the bus turned into the Diamond in Donegal Town where upwards of 25,000 supporters were gathered to welcome home the team.

First on stage were local Four Masters clubman Paul Durcan, Karl Lacey and Barry Dunnion to hoist the Sam Maguire Cup.

Durcan said it was a fabulous feeling to return home.

"It's just unbelievable to have this support around you. To walk out with the two lads with the cup it will be something I will always remember and I hope the club will remember. I was just glad that the homecoming was in Donegal Town."

Lacey echoed those sentiments.

"We are fortunate enough that Donegal Town is one of our first stops and it's where myself, Barry and Paul are from," he said.

"In fairness to the club and Donegal Town it has given us tremendous support whether it is a good or bad day. There's always people coming up to us with good wishes and it's great to come here tonight and give them something back."

Manager Jim McGuinness said: "It was fantastic tonight. It's everybody's dream really to take the cup back into their own county and back to their own people.

"The number of people that have turned out has been staggering, in light of the weather conditions it's fantastic. When the final whistle went yesterday it was one of relief. Now the feeling is maybe a glow. It's just a really, really positive feeling.

"When you have done something special and bringing it back to the people of the county we are in a very privileged position to be able to do that."

Singer Daniel O'Donnell was among those who entertained the crowd and was certainly popular among young and old alike.

O'Donnell missed out on the last homecoming in 1992, but was keen not to miss out on the celebrations this time around.

"I was able to come in 1992 and I wanted to be here so much the last time that in 1993 I went to Derry to feel the atmosphere that they had so I somehow could experience what I missed. 20 years later I am going to experience it first hand with Sam coming here tonight."

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