Home are the Heroes. Pic courtesy Irish Times Newspaper
Within minutes of the referee’s final whistle sounding in Croke Park, cars were spinning around Liberty Square here in Thurles, their with horns blaring, and occupants screaming “Up Tipp” through the windows, their thoughts and plans eagerly anticipating the team’s homecoming.
The word “Enfer”, advertised on the front of the Tipperary Blue and Gold jersey, when translated from the French means “Hell” and that was what the Tipperary team had metered out to old rivals Kilkenny. The most hyped ever final had ended in a surprisingly comfortable win for mighty Tipperary and this undisputed “home of hurling” would now break into a carnival like mood.
The victorious Tipperary players showed off their newly acquired silverware first to young patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, before departing to make their way home. It was only proper that the first baby to sit into the cup was eleven month old Martin Gleeson, from Gortnahoe in Co Tipperary. Danny Walsh just nine months old from Cloughjordan, suitably decked out in the smallest Tipp jersey ever manufactured, was next.
Here on home turf yesterday, the conversation was of little else across the Cathedral town, not to mention the other towns and hamlets throughout the county, as long-standing devotees and new-found enthusiasts spoke of their team’s magnificent accomplishment.
Even failed Tipperary politicians, from all parties, while unable to staunch job losses to the tune of over 7712 in North Tipp alone, were jumping on the band wagon, quickly changing their ‘Best of Luck’ political posters to ‘Congrats Tipperary’, in the hope of duping voters into believing they had some input into this great victory, by some weird past associations.
But enough negativity. The special train carrying the new Cat Conquering, All-Ireland Champions arrived at the railway station in Thurles at 6.21pm attired in purple striped shirts. Through the smoke and smell of cordite from the railway’s celebratory old warning explosives, the first view of team captain Eoin Kelly and manager Liam Sheedy, seated in the driver’s enclosure, emerged, carrying that most elusive of objects, the Liam MacCarthy Cup. A few hundred supporters, despite police advice, had braved entry unto the station’s platforms, to be among the first to greet their 26th title holding heroes, on their arrival.
Then it was on to an open-top bus which made its way through the crowds, to the strains of ‘Slievenamon‘ and through part of the town, before arriving for the official reception at their hallowed Semple Stadium, arriving just after 7.00pm.
And what a reception, at very least 30 to 35 thousand souls were already lying in wait. They had been gathering since 3.30pm in the town, proudly bedecked in their Tipperary blue and gold shirts with matching accessories.
Among the loudest ovations were rightly those for Eoin Kelly himself and the home town hat trick hero Lar Corbett, both of whom now get entered into those guarded gilded pages of Thurles/GAA history, in the wake of Jimmy Doyle, Tony Wall and Mickey ‘The Rattler’ Byrne.
As upsets go this victory will rank up there with the very best of them, and when the players are old and grey, the younger players of Tipperary will recall with pride to their kinsfolk and acquaintances, stories of the greatest hurling victory ever recorded by the Premier County.
For the successful players and management it promises to be a long, exhilarating and exhausting week as the celebrations continue.
The party moves to Mullinahone this evening as the victorious Tipperary team arrive in the village to meet an expected five thousand more fans. Indeed the centre of the village will be closed to traffic from 5.00pm until 10.00pm tonight, but there will however be free car parking on all approach roads into Mullinahone village.
The excitement is not over yet either, as the Premier County could yet easily pull off an All-Ireland double, with their under-21 hurlers scheduled to take on Galway at Semple Stadium this Saturday, despite the whinging of Galway’s chairman Joe Byrne, seeking the advantages of a more neutral venue.