10,000 fans salute Mayo's return home
Published 03/10/2016 | 02:30
Up to 10,000 fans turned out for yet another heart-breaking homecoming for a Mayo team.
Supporters - gutted at losing by a point to Dublin in Saturday's thrilling All-Ireland final replay - were out in force to recognise the gallant efforts of young amateur sportsmen who gave their all for their county.
Manager Stephen Rochford, facing the flak from pundits over his change of goalkeeper on the biggest stage of all, was with the fans as the team returned to McHale Park in Castlebar.
The stadium has seen many glorious days for Mayo over the decades, but far too many occasions where being an All-Ireland finalist just wasn't enough.
The decision to start goalkeeper Rob Hennelly instead of Ballina's David Clarke continues to occupy the minds of Mayo fans after Hennelly's flap led to a decisive Dublin penalty.
But all that was forgotten for now as the Mayo supporters rallied around their team - all of them.
"We just fell short in the end and there's nothing we can do about it now," said Margaret Syron, niece of 1951 All-Ireland winner Fr Peter Quinn.
"I think the whole country was behind Mayo, but that's not an anti-Dublin thing at all; if Dublin hadn't won Sam Maguire in 65 years the country would have been behind them."
Fans cheered as captain Cillian O'Connor told them: "You keep coming out to support us and that's what helps the lads start all over again."
Mary Gray, (77), who was 11 when Mayo last brought Sam Maguire back to the West, said: "We matched the Dubs all the way.
"We've had a wonderful time at two great finals and after 160 minutes of football there was only a point between us.
"You have to congratulate Dublin but I am so, so proud of the Mayo lads."