FOR years she's been handing them trophies and medals. Yesterday it was payback time of sorts for President Mary McAleese.
She travelled to the Marble City to become just the third living person honoured with the freedom of Kilkenny, joining local politician Seamus Pattison and hurling manager Brian Cody on the roll of honour.
Luckily, the President has an interest in hurling as there was no escaping the theme yesterday: from the presence of Mr Cody on the roll of freedom, to former GAA president Nickey Brennan's smiling presence in the audience at Kilkenny Castle, and the presentation of a pair of hurleys to the President and her husband Dr Martin McAleese.
There was even a reminder of the rare occasions when Kilkenny loosen their iron-like grip on hurling's top prizes, with former Wexford boss Liam Griffin among the distinguished guests.
In her address, the President spoke of the hurley and sliotar, signed by DJ Carey, currently occupying a prominent place in Aras an Uachtarain. "I'm hoping some of that glorious DNA, the Cody charisma, might rub off and maybe bring an Ulster team -- possibly an Antrim team -- a little bit closer to one of those legendary days in Croke Park when Kilkenny delivers a masterclass in hurling and everybody says, 'aah, it will take two teams to beat them'," she said.
"Let's hope, let's hope ... "
Recalling those September days when she as President and Nickey Brennan as GAA president -- during his recently-ended term -- would, as often as not, watch Kilkenny doing battle with some poor unfortunates, the President said she still has the bruises down her left side from Nickey's excited jumping up and down.
"I'm not the quietest person at a match, and it's the same with Nickey," she revealed.
Dylan Vaughan's picture shows President McAleese with Mayor of Kilkenny Pat Crotty and her husband Martin.