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Royal welcome for Kingdom heroes after double delight

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Aidan O'Mahony hoists Sam at the Kerry team's homecoming in Rathmore. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Aidan O'Mahony hoists Sam at the Kerry team's homecoming in Rathmore. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Thousands of fans turned out to welcome home the victorious Kerry senior football and minor teams in Tralee on Monday night.

Thousands of fans turned out to welcome home the victorious Kerry senior football and minor teams in Tralee on Monday night.

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Aidan O'Mahony hoists Sam at the Kerry team's homecoming in Rathmore. Photo: Don MacMonagle

THEY waited 34 years to see history repeated and last night thousands of loyal supporters came out to show their support of their All-Ireland winning champions.

The last time Kerry won the double was in 1980 so when the open-topped buses carrying their senior and minor football heroes arrived in Tralee yesterday, a cacophony of noise and a sea of green and gold from 20,000 supporters greeted them.

It's been a five-year 'famine' since Kerry last welcomed home the Sam Maguire in 2009 and last night the crowds that lined the streets even surpassed the numbers that had come out in 1997, when it had been 11 years since the Kingdom had last won a final.

The crowds were also there to show their appreciation of their minors, the young heroes that ended a gap of 20 years. Mayor of Kerry John Brasil had the honour of officially welcoming home both teams.

"Days like this don't fall from the sky," he said. Mayor of Tralee Jim Finucane said they had brought glory to their county and to Kerry people all over the globe.

The first stop for the train carrying its special silver cargo was Rathmore, where 1,500 people filled Station Road to give a very special welcome home to local hero and final man-of-the-match Paul Murphy as well as his fellow club members, veteran Aidan O'Sullivan and minor goalie Shane Ryan.

Right-half back Murphy had a special word of encouragement for young fans who had gathered in the glorious September sunshine.

"I was out there in the crowd watching my heroes on this stage and I never thought I would ever be among them.

"If any of you want to go for it, believe in yourselves and go for it," he said.

Among the crowd was Kate Mary Cremin (80) whose grandson Podge Collins won an All-Ireland with Clare last year.

"I have no problem shouting for Clare if they go to an All-Ireland final, but I'll shout for Kerry with my dying breath," said the retired teacher.

Schoolgirls Muirosa O'Leary and her sister Danielle had spent three hours after school making a poster that said: "Aidan our rock, Shane our saviour, Paul Man of the Match. Heroes for the future."

There was even room for some pantomime, and the Donegal "spy in the tree" was rumbled once more and removed from the station by club officials.

The teams were running about an hour behind time but the crowds that greeted them in Tralee were equalled in Killarney. They had waited five years for this moment and 20 years for a double so another hour didn't matter.

See Sport pages 62,63, 64

Irish Independent