By Cóilín Duffy
After a 29-year wait, Galway's victorious hurlers have brought the Liam McCarthy Cup back to the city of the tribes.
Tens of thousands turned out this evening to greet the Senior and Minor champions as they made their way back across the Shannon.
The fans turned out in droves for a homecoming event this evening at Pearse Stadium.
It fell to mayor of Galway Pearse Flannery to welcome the hurling heroes with a rousing introduction.
To a roaring crowd, he said: "It is my pleasure to finish by telling you this - Connacht no longer lies on slumber deep, because the West's awake!"
Shortly after 7.30pm the 32-strong panel and management arrived on stage to tremendous cheers and applause from the over 40,000 in attendance at the Salthill venue.
One of the biggest cheers on the night was reserved for Galway's all-time Senior Championship top-scorer Joe Canning.
Senior manager Micheal Donoghue paid particular tributes to the loyal Galway supporters for their backing this year.
"One of the biggest traits we asked of this team when we came in was that they play to a level where they get the respect from the supporters," he said.
"The players did that this year, ultimately winning the All-Ireland. On behalf of the whole management and the whole squad, the support we have received from the supporters, from the Dublin game in the first round of the Championship up until yesterday, and from once we entered Co Galway today, the support has been phenomenal.
"On behalf of everyone, a sincere thanks to everyone who is here tonight. Thank you!
"I'm in a privileged position standing here as the manager, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the previous managers who have gone before to help develop these players."
Donoghue was keen to stress that the win was also for former Galway squads who put in huge efforts without much reward over the years.
"As well as the previous managements, we must mention all the players who have previously donned the Galway jersey and worn it with great distinction and pride, and unfortunately didn't get their chance to win the All-Ireland with Galway.
"The win yesterday is for previous managements and players also."
Talking about the current squad, Donoghue said that when he and the management took the reins, they were fully aware of the quality of talent at their disposal.
"We've said since we got the job that their attitude and application has been top class.
"We knew that we were dealing with a high quality team, and a team that has huge experience. When you have capable hurlers and they have applied themselves and that they can adapt to different situations, which they have showen throughout the year - you know you have great class.
"I'd also like to thank the management team that I have, from the strength and conditioning right through - everybody had a huge part to play and the county board for all of their support.
"The support our sponsors Pat and Una McDonagh from Supermacs give us is also hugely appreciated, and I'd like to thank all of them."
Galway captain David Burke said it was great to have the Liam McCarthy Cup in tow.
"I suppose these are special memories that we cherish for the rest of our lives really," he said.
"Last November we set out on a task, but really it was two years ago. When you look at it in a calendar year - 41 weeks when this group of players set out training, and to think that the whole county waited 29 years to get our hands on this cup it real means a lot to see the crowd that has turned out to see us.
"When I am speaking here, I am talking on behalf of the rest of the panel because they mightn't appreciate at the time, but in weeks to come or in years to come they will really appreciate your support, and especially for making the effort to come out here tonight, even if you didn't get to the game yesterday."
The St Thomas clubman added: "We are massively appreciative of your support."
Looking at yesterday's final, Burke was happy with his side's composure in responding to two Waterford goals.
"We set out in every game to start as well as we could, and I think we started the best all year yesterday.
"Waterford are a quality team and they came back at us. I suppose if you are giving any advice to any young hurler or camogie player out there, the biggest trait you could take from this team is teamwork.
"I think that's what we had in abundance this year. We have serious quality players all over the field, but the teamwork that got us over the line - you could see that in the semi-final against Tipperary, and especially again yesterday.
"I'm just delighted that we won it, and it was a massive bonus the way we did."
The Minor team were the first team to arrive on stage at the Galway GAA County grounds at 7.10pm with the Irish Press Cup.
Galway Minor captain Darren Morrissey said it was a special win.
"Words can describe the feeling. It was just unbelievable - it was definitely up there with one of the best days of my life so far," he said.
"In the last three games we played I'd say we were underdogs for all three of them, and probably it suited us down to the ground.
"There's serious character in this group, and we all have such a great bond between the players and the management and it just shows out on the pitch when things fall we pick it up again and we go at it."
Minor manager Jeffrey Lynskey said it has been a memorable couple of days.
"If you want one day in your life where dreams all come true - that's today and yesterday," he said.
"From Ballinasloe in it's been incredible. All of the people coming out waving flags, celebrating and tonight is going to be one big party!"
Lynskey was proud of his sides display yesterday, and in particular their second half performance.
"There's huge character within the group. These lads have done 140+ training sessions since Decemeber and worked incredibly hard so their character is unquestioned.
"We knew a three-point lead at half-time wasn't insurmountable. They went out in the second half, and they put in an absolutely incredible performance."
Earlier, the squads made their way across the Shannon before receiving a reception in Ballinasloe.
Up to 15,000 people gathered in the town to witness their heroes, before their departure for Galway City.
Galway will be in action in Kenny Park, Athenry on Thursday in a fundraising event for the Tony Keady fund.