Monday 22 January 2018

Joy and relief as 30,000 welcome Rebel champs

Ralph Riegel

The SAM Maguire trophy was greeted by 30,000 happy fans on arrival back in Cork last night.

Sam himself, who was a native of Dunmanway in the Rebel county, would have been deeply proud of the welcome as the accumulated pain of previous four All-Ireland defeats was washed away on a tide of euphoria and relief.

The victorious All-Ireland winning team were formally greeted by Lord Mayor Michael O'Connell and the Bishop of Cork and Ross, John Buckley.

The mayor said the players had managed to lift the spirits of the entire county as he looked out over a sea of red-and-white on the South Mall.

Cork celebrated the Rebels' seventh All-Ireland football triumph as if it was the county's first.

"That's what makes tonight so special; we've been to the depths of despair but now we're on top of the world," said fan Pad Murphy.

Christy Walsh, owner of the Welcome Inn on Parnell Place, said there had been a wonderful atmosphere all week.

From Bantry to Boherbue and Kilworth to Kilcrohane, Cork fans travelled to the city to pay homage to the Rebel stars who had ended the 20-year wait for All-Ireland football success.

For the first time, the footballers arrived back in the city by coach rather than by train -- with Cork City Council having agreed a supplementary budget of €50,000 to pay for the 'welcome home' celebrations.

Fans roared themselves hoarse as captain Graham Canty hoisted the famous trophy aloft at the presentation stand in Parnell Place/South Mall.

"Graham Canty for President," one banner proudly proclaimed in tribute to the Bantry Blues stalwart.

City centre premises blared Cork's unofficial 2010 football anthem -- a rap version of The Kings of Leon hit, 'Sex on Fire,' re-cut to the Leeside lyrics 'Bring Back Sam Maguire'.

A rousing reception was also accorded the minors who agonisingly failed to make it a Cork football double, losing the final to Tyrone by a point.

Cork manager Conor Counihan paid glowing tribute to those football fans who had never lost faith. He said the players had defied their critics -- and showed both character and courage.

"Twenty years is a long time to be organising a party so we're going to make sure it was worth the wait tonight," he told the crowd to roars of approval.

Captain Canty hailed Cork fans as the best in Ireland: "You've done us proud."

Man of the Match Daniel Goulding said they were thrilled with their ecstatic welcome home.

"We have soldiered together for a long time -- so it's a great relief to finally bring the Sam Maguire back to Cork," he declared.

Irish Independent

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