30,000 welcome Clare hurlers home

Upwards of 30,000 people descended on Ennis tonight for the homecoming of the Clare Senior and Under 21 All-Ireland-winning teams.

Both sets of players were introduced on stage by MC's Syl O'Connor of Clare FM and RTÉ's Marty Morrissey to rapturous cheers from the large crowd.

Initially the Under 21 players who were victorious in the All-Ireland final a fortnight ago were introduced individually to the crowd, before a lone piper from the Tulla Pipe Band paraded the Senior players and management on stage.

Mayor of Ennis Cllr. Mary Coote Ryan was very proud of the players.

"What a wonderful magical night it is - tonight is you night and a wonderful Clare hurlers night, " she said.

"On behalf of Ennis Town Council I want to congratulate Davy and the Clare hurlers.

"Both the senior team and the under 21 team for the honour and pleasure they have brought to the people of the county by their performances this year.

"These performances have showcased the wonderful wealth of sporting talent that exists in county clare and how our young hurlers are able to compete and defeat the country's top inter-county hurling teams."

Clare GAA Chairperson Michael O'Neill thanked Ennis Town Council and Clare County Council and staff along with the Garda Siochana for their organisation of the event and said, that yesterday's win was "a moment that those of us who were there will never forget."

He also went on to thank the players and the management team, and paid particular tribute to manager Davy Fitzgerald.

"He is a hurling genius there is no doubt about that, and I would particularly pay tribute to Davy Fitzgerald."

One of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for Clare's hat-trick hero and Man of the Match Shane O'Donnell.

O'Donnell was the second last player to be introduced to the crowd before Clare captain Pat Donnellan from O'Callaghan's Mills spoke to the thousands immersed in a sea of Saffron and Gold below him.

"It means a huge amount to this group of players," he said.

"We know we are very privileged and very lucky to tog out for Clare. We know that days like yesterday are very few and far between given Clare's recent history so we are going to enjoy it for all it is worth.

"Just a sincere thank you to all of the supporters for coming out here today, it's absolutely brilliant. Thanks very much."

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald was immensely thankful to the thousands of fans who turned up to lend their support.

"Folks, I just would like to start by saying we have passionate players that's for sure, but by Jesus we have passionate supporters as well.

"From Cratloe to Sixmilebridge to Newmarket and Clarecastle tonight has been exceptional, but for the last couple of weeks all of us together as a family here behind me we have driven all over the county and we have seen the colour and we have the support that ye have given us and our hats are off to ye. Thank you very much for that support."

Earlier, the team, management and officials departed Dublin by train at 2pm, arriving in Limerick shortly before 4.15pm.

Hundreds of Clare supporters were present at Colbert Station to greet their heroes, before the entourage made its way by Garda escort towards the Clare border.

At every stop from Cratloe to Clarecastle the crowds increased along the way.

At Cratloe GAA Club, hundreds descended on Páirc Mícheál Uí hEithir to welcome their heroes, including local players Pádraic Collins, Conor McGrath, Conor Ryan, Cathal McInerney and Liam Markham.

At Newmarket on Fergus 8,000 supporters turned up to welcome back their heroes.

Meanwhile, the vanquished Cork team arrived to 3,000 supporters waiting in tough wet and windy weather conditions at the South Mall in Cork City around 7pm.

Cork manager Jimmy Barry Murphy vowed that the team would one day return with the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

"I sincerely want to thank everybody that has turned out tonight," he told the crowd.

"I know it's not a very nice evening and I know you are all very disappointed that we didn't bring back the cup, the same as we are.

"There are just two groups of players I want to thank particularly, firstly our players who have been fantastic all of the year, an outstanding team.

"We were led by a wonderful captain Patrick Cronin who has been a credit to the county and he has been an inspirational captain for me and for all of the players and the back room team here as well.

"Finally I want to thank our supporters, who for the whole year right throughout the Summer even when things were going against us. Right through the whole campaign, even up to Croke Park again yesterday - a massive Cork support.

"I know that speaking on behalf of all of the lads that we are massively disappointed that we didn't have the cup here tonight, but I can assure you that the lads here, all of these young men will be back here in the very near future the Liam MacCarthy Cup, I can guarantee you that."

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