By Cóilín Duffy
Thousands gathered at Nowlan Park this evening to welcome home the victorious Kilkenny team after their 35th All-Ireland Senior Hurling triumph yesterday at Croke Park.
For the first time the homecoming honoured not just the victorious Senior and Minor All-Ireland and Leinster winning sides, but also the Kilkenny Senior and Intermediate Camogie teams that were beaten in All-Ireland finals recently at Croke Park, while Kilkenny City was also honoured following its recent Tidy Towns Award.
Shortly before 5.30pm the Senior team arrived on stage at Nowlan Park introduced by Kilkenny GAA Chairman Ned Quinn, with the injured Michael Rice the first player on stage.
Two of the biggest cheers were reserved for captain Lester Ryan with the Liam MacCarthy Cup and 10-time All-Ireland SHC winner Henry Shefflin.
“Some said that there never was a conveyor belt, but there was outstanding players coming through,” manager Brian Cody said.
Cody had a special word for Henry Shefflin and his record breaking tenth All-Ireland medal win.
“It is only right that I should mention the achievement of Henry yesterday,” he said.
“To win 10 All-Ireland medals on the field of play is something that was never done before.
“It’s very, very tempting when you are in these situations to say it will never be done again, but already there is players queuing up behind him to make sure it will be done again.
“We look forward to seeing it happen again in the very, very near future. Henry has created history, but more importantly than that he has been a magnificent player and a magnificent leader going back since he starting playing.
“Anything he has achieved he has earned, because he has fought through injury. His magnificent skill, determination and sheer genuineness has always shone through.
“Well done Henry on a magnificent achievement.”
Celebrations will continue long into tonight, but the players will be back on the road tomorrow for the customary visit to the captain’s home club.
Kilkenny captain Lester Ryan will head to his club Clara with the team for celebrations tomorrow night at 6.30pm.