You're still our heroes – Mayo fans flock to welcome the teams
THEIR hearts may be broken, but that didn't stop thousands of Mayo fans from flocking to McHale Park to welcome home both their triumphant and dejected teams.
Fans gathered from 4pm last night at the Castlebar grounds where a sea of green and red enjoyed the summer sunshine and waited patiently to show their gratitude to both teams who battled valiantly.
And their loyal support was reciprocated by the disappointed seniors who vowed to fight on until Sam returned to Mayo.
The park erupted into applause as the senior team made their way onstage but the players found it hard to hide their obvious disappointment after once again coming so close to glory only to see it all slip away at the last minute.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sports Minister Michael Ring were among the disappointed Mayo fans who turned out last night to welcome their teams home. And the fans were already thinking forward, with Mr Ring extracting the promise that the team wouldn't give up.
"I want to say to James and his team today. We were one point away. Please lads, please stay together until we bring home the Sam Maguire Cup next year.
"Don't have your heads down, there were 30 counties who would love to be in Croke Park yesterday we had two teams in Croke Park, one won and the other will return next year and we're going to bring the Sam Maguire home," he said.
Mr Ring admitted that he had been invited to the Mansion House last night to celebrate with the victorious Dublin team but couldn't bring himself to attend.
"I just couldn't do it. I had to send Leo instead because I just couldn't do it," he said.
Senior captain Andy Moran thanked the fans for being the best in the country before the delighted crowd promising: "This team is not just going to be back next year, this team will be around for the next five, six, or seven years."
Manager James Horan also looked forward, telling the crowds that between the senior and minor players Mayo's future looked "very, very bright".
Chairman of the county board, Paddy McNicholas, asked Mr Ring to consider making the Monday following the All-Ireland final a bank holiday because Mayo was going to need them in the years ahead.
As the victorious minor team made their way on to the stage with the Markham Cup, the crowd went wild. The minor manager told the crowd he had huge praise and admiration for the way the senior team had gone about its business.
The final thank you was held for the supporters who had come out time and again to get behind their teams. And despite facing a 63-year wait for Sam, the fans were determined to show that they were there for the long haul.
Stephen Murphy, a former Mayo player, brought his four children, Gavin (7), Odhran (5) Noah (2) and one-year-old Lexi to the homecoming celebrations.
"We weren't really too disappointed because of the minor win but it was vital to be there today. The wait continues but we live in hope," he added.