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Only a short trip for Sam to the victory party

Published 24/09/2013 | 04:00

Dublin fans gather in Merrion Square as the squad arrive for celebrations
Mayo fans turned out to greet both the minor and senior football teams in McHale Park, Castlebar
Mayo captain Andy Moran addressing fans in McHale Park, Castlebar

AS the sky faded from bright azure to the cool grey of dusk, a mighty roar rose from the river of blue-clad Dubs crowded into Merrion Square. Dublin 2 was transformed into Hill 16 as thousands of supporters gathered with the happy task of greeting an old pal, Sam Maguire, who had gone off on his holliers to Donegal for the past year.

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And maybe the cheers were tinged with relief – it had been a close-run thing in Croker on Sunday, a frantic scramble to the whistle with only one point in it at the end, and a giant screen on the square beamed out the highlights of the nail-biting Dublin-Mayo final as a reminder of just how close it had been.

But the Dubs had prevailed. Sam wasn't heading west of the Shannon – he was speeding through the capital on a bus to be hoisted aloft to the fans as proof that the dramatic victory over Kerry two years ago hadn't been a fluke or a false dawn or a once-in-a-Blue-moon.

Barriers had been erected on three sides of the square last night in expectation of a massive crowd; it may not have been quite as big as anticipated but they were exuberantly noisy. This had been billed as a family celebration, and families turned out in large numbers.

Perhaps mindful of their youthful audience, the speeches before the team were introduced were kept miraculously short. Dublin chairman Andy Kettle thanked the supporters. "You're the most important people – the players play for you and only you," he declared.

Des Cahill was master of ceremonies and introduced the winners of the National League and the All-Ireland.

Lizzy O'Callighan, aged 12, and Zoe Duff, aged 13, both from Clontarf, on the Dublin team bus with Dublin's Dean Rock after the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin.
Lizzy O'Callighan, aged 12, and Zoe Duff, aged 13, both from Clontarf, on the Dublin team bus with Dublin's Dean Rock after the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin.
23 September 2013; Dublin manager Jim Gavin, right, with playes left to right, Denis Bastick, Stephen Cluxton and Rory O'Carroll during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Bernard Brogan during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin trophies, the Football League Division 1, the Leinster trophy and the Sam Maguire Cup, on the team bus after the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Ger Brennan, left, and James McCarthy during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara, right, and Paul Flynn during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin trophies, the Football League Division 1, the Leinster trophy and the Sam Maguire Cup, on the team bus after the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Jonny Cooper during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Dean Rock during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions
23 September 2013; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin players during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara and Paddy Andrews, left, during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly, left, and Eoghan O'Gara with the Sam Maguire cup during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire cup during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions
23 September 2013; Dublin's Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire cup with manager Jim Gavin, right, during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Dean Rock singing during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Paul Flynn dancing during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Paul Flynn, left, and Diarmuid Connolly during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; A general view of the crowd during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Ray O'Shea, left, form Crumlin, and Tony Brouchan, from Cabra, Dublin with Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Paddy Andrews on the team Dublin bus with the Sam Maguire and Leinster cups during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Stephen Cluxton signing autographs during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara lifts Paddy Andrews during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Tony Brouchan, from Cabra, Dublin, during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny enters the team bus after the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Tony Brouchan, from Cabra, Dublin, during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Dublin's Paddy Andrews and Eoghan O'Gara during the homecoming celebrations of the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Fans awaiting Dubin football team
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team.
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team.
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans Emma O'Keefe and Lauren Fitzpatrick both from Tallaght in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fan Conall Gliasain (9) from Blanchardstown in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fan Rian Barrett (1) from Swords in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans Marlene Mapels 18 months & Peter O Connor both from Coolock in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans Damien Kinsellla and Fionn Kinsella, both from Newbridge in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans Sharon Gorman & Ava Gorman (9) both from Glasnevin in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team
Dublin fans John & Lucy O'Connor (2) both from Lucan in Merrion Square during arrival celebrations of the Dublin GAA team

"There's only the Ploughing Championship left to win," he joked (though the odds must have been very long on many of his audience making the pilgrimage to the Electric Picnic of Rural Ireland, which kicks off in Laois today).

First onstage was Bryan Cullen, who led the team to All-Ireland victory in 2011 (he'd be familiar with the neighbourhood, as it's only down the road from Coppers, the nightclub which received an unforgettable plug in his victory speech). The squad were introduced onstage – some strode on, all waves and wide grins; others sidled on to the platform like mortified young fellas on their first day in school.

They looked so young, standing on the stage and waving like boys at the crowd. And so many of them are – neither Michael Darragh Macauley or Ciaran Kilkenny made it into the first day of their respective college terms yesterday morning. Other lads were eager to pay tribute to the fans.

"Thanks very much for coming out today. Fair play to yiz," said Paul Flynn, while a hoarse-voiced Diarmuid Connolly kept his message short: "Come on the boys in blue!"

The cheers grew louder as the trio of Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews and two-goal hero Bernard Brogan stepped out into the spotlight. And then on came the star of the show, Sam, carried like an emperor by captain Stephen Cluxton, whose boot had kept the Dubs in the hunt for glory, and their manager Jim Gavin. The sky rattled. "Championes," sang the Dubs.

There were a couple of songs from Kevin McManamon with his brother Sean on guitar, and from Dean Rock. One thing is for sure – those boys won't be playing Croker in any other capacity except football.

Irish Independent

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