Thousands turn out to hail Red Army's sweet victory
ALL hail the conquering heroes. Thousands of fans welcomed Sligo Rovers home last night after their dramatic FAI Cup victory over Shamrock Rovers.
Bonfires lit the roadsides from the county boundary near Boyle in Co Roscommon right to the edge of Sligo town, where the team switched to an open-top bus for the final stages of their noisy and colourful homecoming.
And the locals revelled in it.
"Sligo rarely gets a chance to welcome sporting heroes home from a big occasion," said Liam Conlon, from Ballisadare.
"This is unbelievable. The team thoroughly deserve all the cheers we can give them."
The homecoming procession started in Carrick-on-Shannon when manager Paul Cook, from Liverpool, and his side walked the streets to applause during a meal-break stop.
They were next cheered through Boyle before stopping off in front of nearly 1,000 people in Riverstown, home of man-of-the-match Joseph N'do.
N'do is 34 now and a legend in Irish football and also in Cameroon, for whom he played in two World Cups. He proudly walked the streets of this tiny Irish town with the cup aloft.
It took the team four hours to travel the last 50 kilometres from Carrick-on-Shannon to a rousing welcome at a reception in front of City Hall.
The event was hosted by life-long fan Tommie Gorman, better known as RTE's Northern Ireland correspondent.
It's only the third time Sligo have won the Cup -- following triumphs in 1983 and 1984.
"It's a game Sligo will never forget," mayor Matt Lyons said.
"It was literally a thrill from minute to minute.
"What a wonderful boost for the town and the northwest in these gloomy days. It's a wonderful, wonderful boost for the area," he added.
Club captain Conor O'Grady, who came on as a sub, and team captain Danny Ventre, held the cup aloft in front of city hall to the biggest cheer of the night.
The crowd also hailed club official Dermot Brannigan as he placed the trophy lid on his head -- in much the same way it had toppled on to him when it was being presented at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
Dermot Healy was there with his grandchildren Emma (12) and Nicole (9).
Both youngsters said they couldn't be at the game because their baby cousin, Sean Brendan Barry, was being christened at home.
"If the name hadn't already been picked he might have been called Ciaran," Mr Healy said.
"There will be a lot of Ciarans in Sligo in the next year after the goalie Ciaran Kelly."
Kelly (30) from Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, was the Sligo hero when he stopped all four Shamrock Rovers shots in the penalty shootout that decided the game after a nil-all draw.