Kilkenny greets its heroes as if they'd never won before
KINGS of September they may be but their arrival home on the first evening of October was greeted with just as much enthusiasm by Kilkenny's adoring public as if it was their first taste of glory.
The players and management love their hurling, and their supporters love them in turn, as was proven last night by the thousands who welcomed them home.
It's become a familiar routine by now.
The only differences were that this time it was October by the time the heroes were home, and the homecoming took a new route, by bus from Kilkenny Castle to local GAA headquarters at Nowlan Park.
The returning heroes arrived at Kilkenny Castle just after 5.30pm and stepped off the coach that transported them from Dublin -- registration 12-KK-1 of course -- and on to an open-top bus for the journey through the city streets.
"It's a privilege every single time we get the opportunity and thanks be to God we have it this year," said Brian Cody as Liam MacCarthy came home for the ninth time under his managerial reign.
As county board secretary Ned Quinn reminded the crowd, when Brian Cody took over back in late 1998, they "hadn't won the All-Ireland in five years" -- a famine in Kilkenny terms.
Few would question his methods these days and anyone who doubted his decision to throw debutant Walter Walsh into Sunday's replay at full-forward was given an answer with a man-of-the-match performance.
As the team was introduced at Nowlan Park, huge cheers greeted young "Wally" as he was frequently dubbed, King Henry Shefflin who had just claimed his ninth winner's medal, skipper Eoin Larkin, Cody himself, and the team.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan, a Tullaroan native, was booed when introduced to the crowd at the start of the reception.