'31 counties were against us' says Brian Cody as Cats celebrate
Surveying the crowd of thousands last night in Nowlan Park at another victory celebration, Brian Cody was already planting the seeds for more All-Ireland homecomings in Kilkenny.
He told the devoted that, once upon a time, the players who earned a 36th title for the county on Sunday were standing in the crowd of supporters, cheering and watching as their heroes were winning in days gone by.
"That gave them the drive and ambition and dream to get up on that stage themselves, to get to play with Kilkenny and be a part of something like this. It's certain there are young children and teenagers in the stand tonight, you people have that same dream and same ambition and same determination to some day be up wearing the black and amber and hopefully be part of a team that brings back the Liam McCarthy Cup."
Sounding an ominous note for other hurling counties, he added: "The players behind me are leading the way now, it's vitally important that what happens now continues to happen."
After receiving the loudest cheer of the evening when he strode onto the stage, Cody pointed out that 31 counties were rooting for Galway in Sunday's final, "and that's understandable".
He hailed their opponents for a "magnificent" first half, but then reminded everyone what makes this side great.
"I think the display in the second half and the skill and strength of character they showed can be compared to any display by any team in any code, anywhere."
The Kilkenny manager's speech was the last of the homecoming event.
The hurlers had started the morning as is traditional, with a visit to the youngsters at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
Celebrations really got under way when the team bus arrived at Kilkenny Castle at 5.45pm, allowing the players to board an open-top bus for the familiar journey towards Nowlan Park.
Out came the fans as the bus chugged along, cheering and forming a crowd, like the children of Hamelin following the Pied Piper.
Up to 12,000 people in all gathered on the streets and in Nowlan Park, the headquarters of hurling in Kilkenny, to welcome the players and the cup.
Among them was one brave soul who braved the wrath of the gardaí - and county board stewards - by streaking onto the pitch wearing little more than a pair of socks before being wrestled out of view.
The manager watched as his players were introduced one by one to the crowd by board chairman Ned Quinn, starting with captain Joey Holden, "a giant of a man," while the PA system blared out the Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling' - a song that, like Brian Cody, never seems to grow old.
Singer-songwriter Alan Hayes led the players and supporters in a rendition of 'The Rose of Mooncoin' to wind up the formalities and usher in another night of festivities.
Within minutes, the Kilkenny players left the stadium on foot and made their way back into the city centre for a meal and some time to relax, standing in for photos on their way.
Just the All-Ireland champions out for a stroll, taking the night off before returning to their clubs and then beginning their preparations for next year.