More than 20,000 people lined the quays of Waterford city, according to gardaí, from early evening, to welcome their hurling heroes just over 24 hours after they came within a goal of Galway in Sunday’s tension-packed decider, 58 years after the county last won the Liam McCarthy Cup.
About an hour and a half later than scheduled, the team and management crossed Rice Bridge on an open-top bus, to ever-growing cheers, and travelled along the quays to the
viewing point by the Suir where most of the crowd had gathered.
After being warmed up by entertainers Brass & Co and Richie Hayes, with the obligatory ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ among the musical numbers belted out over the river, the thousands were in full voice as their heroes made their way from the bus to the stage, welcomed by Mayor of Waterford City and County Pat Nugent and the rest of the council.
Also present were members of Waterford’s victorious 1959 team, Austin Flynn, Michael O’Connor, Larry Guinan, Freddie O’Brien and Martin Óg Morrissey.
Just after 8pm, team manager Derek McGrath, captain Kevin Moran and the rest of the team and management were introduced to a grateful crowd.
“They may be down today, but not for long,” said Mr Nugent. “They will be back with Liam McCarthy in the near future. Our people have been energised and moved by the success of this team over the summer.”
Accompanied by his two young sons, Derek McGrath spoke to the people about being “overwhelmed” by the welcomed given to the team.
“It’s incredible really,” he said, “very hard to put into words.”
The popular manager said that the banquet on Sunday night had given a lift to the team, but they were truly heartened by the reception last night.
On the morning of the match, he said, the group had spoken about the need to “not take no for an answer” and about who they were performing in the final for, such as their families, their clubs, their teachers, and all Waterford supporters.
“If a man can stretch his body and mind to the limit, that’s what we were asking the lads to do and they’ve done that for us over the last four years.”
The team was a “mirror image” of the Waterford public, he said, who thrive in adversity and don’t take no for an answer.
To roars of approval, “Up the Déise” were his final words of the night, before
departing the stage with his team, who will aim to be back this time next year with the trophy in their hands.