Home are the heroes

Kilcummin and Beaufort host rousing receptions to welcome home history-makers after they take Croker by storm

Nathan Breen (left) – captain of the Beaufort team, All- Ireland Junior Football Champions – with Fionn Van Bladel at Cullina NS. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Nathan Breen (left) – captain of the Beaufort team, All- Ireland Junior Football Champions – with Fionn Van Bladel at Cullina NS. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
The Kilcummin players celebrate on their homecoming on Sunday night. Photos by Michelle Cooper
Pupils and staff members cheering on the Beaufort team, winners of the All Ireland Junior Football Championship, during the visit by the team to Kilgobnet National School Beaufort on Monday

Stephen Fernane

'Poetry is jealous of you tonight' is a line by poet Kojouri that found its true meaning in Beaufort and Kilcummin on Sunday evening, as two memorable homecomings proved poetry in motion for the large crowd welcoming their heroes home on a February evening when no one felt the chill. There are many thresholds a team must cross on the route to an All-Ireland victory. But the most rewarding one is surely crossing the threshold between sweet victory and home.

As last light fell on Beaufort and Kilcummin on Sunday evening, the first light from the bonfires dotted along the way were only getting started. In Beaufort, the Kilgobnet Biddy played and danced the team all the way from the bridge to the club's grounds, where the celebrations started long before the team's arrival. Names of players such as Carey, McCarthy, Hallissey and Murphy were being recited long into the night in their respective parishes.

"This is something you dream about and then, suddenly, it happens and you're on top of the world," said Frank Coffey, Chairman of Beaufort GAA Club. "The homecoming was very emotional as it was a lovely mixture of tradition, culture and music. It was a great journey and even if we hadn't won the All-Ireland, great positivity came out of it," he added.

Eugene McSweeney is chairman of Kilcummin GAA Club, and he was equally over the moon with the win, adding that it has been immense for the parish. 

"It's pure 'fever pitch' as they say. We got home around 7.30pm on Sunday night with the bonfires lighting all the way through to Kilcummin," he said.

Both clubs recorded comfortable wins in their respective Croke Park showdowns as Kilcummin overcame Naomh Eanna by 5-13 to 2-9, while Beaufort saw off Easkey by 3-17 to 0-5.  But it's not intended as disrespectful to Saturday's opposition in saying that the true winning of these All-Irelands was done during the hard-fought campaigns in Kerry and Munster.

"I was confident, once we came out of Kerry, of winning it. We had our tough games and could have been beaten by Churchill and Na Gaeil. Our team got stronger with every game, and our support galvanised us into a strong unit," the Beaufort chairman said. Meanwhile, Eugene also spoke of how everyone in Kilcummin has enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere.

"I think the team saved its best match for Croke Park. We can't thank the former GAA President, Sean Kelly, enough for starting up this competition years ago. To see past players and older people in the parish in tears was something else. This was a big moment for us." Meanwhile, over in Tralee on Saturday night, a bustling Austin Stack Park increased the noise decibels when it was announced over the tannoy that Beaufort and Kilcummin won.

The strong sense of 'Kerry' was also evident in Croke Park on Saturday. Frank and Eugene were eager to make their appreciation known at how the supporters from both clubs supported each other on the day. The end result was two momentous occasions that will now be written into parish history and folklore.