The scenes of joy witnessed on the field after the final whistle had sounded in Semple Staidum on Sunday said it all - Loughmore Castleiney, despite all the slings and arrows fired in their direction during the season, were the kingpins of The Premier County, and they revelled in it.
The blows still rained down on them on the morning of the game when it became known that Mrs Treacy, mother of former Secretary John, and gran-aunt of seven of the players, had passed away during the night. They also learned that Eddie Connolly, one of their colleagues on the field, had been returned to hospital after serious surgery last week.
But, Loughmore Castleiney are a resilient lot and they put aside their sadness, channelled their hurt and tackled the task in hand with great fortitude.
Mind you, victory for them for a long time seemed as unlikely as it did after the Mid Final - they just were not firing and yet, they were still hnaging in there, like a boxer on the ropes awaiting the bell.
Yeah, it was a different Loughmore Castleiney in the second half and when Noel McGrath began to find his range, you could sense the atmosphere changing in Semple Stadium. Nenagh Eire Og tensed up while the mid men grew in stature.
Pundits had predicted that if they were neck and nect going down the final straight, Loughmore Castleiney’s greater mental strength could see them over the winning line - so it did. They smothered the game, shielded their advantage and survived late sortees from the opposition to eek out the famous win.
What a day for the club, celebrating the silver jubilee of their first title and then adding their third to the mix.
“You often dream of days like these but you don’t ever think that they will come through,” said Eamon Sweeney, Captain of the side back in 1988, Manager of the team in 2007 and father of Evan, the man who shot the winning point in 2013.
Current Boss Declan Laffen was equally as struck by the magnitude of what had been achieved and he was fullsome in his praise of the players who had made it happen.
“I have often said that it is the players who make these things happen. We are there just to organise things and make sure that they are looked after properly and organised, but it has to come from within the players, and they have it in spades,” he said.
What lies beneath the surface is often the key to success, but getting it to surface if paramount - a well of crystal pure water is of little benefit underground, but tap into it and you are on a winner. So it was with Loughmore Castleiney.
The loss of Eddie Connolly and then the sad news of the passing of Mrs Treacy consolidated the team as players found comfort in each others company. A sense of onesness prevailed and that togetherness was evident on the field afterwards, in the dressingroom and in The Templemore Arms Hotel where the silver jubilee side was feted alongside the new champions.
The sense of mutual respect between the players and former players made for an amazing dynamic and proved to be a special sanctuary for the medal holders before they descended on Loughmore for celebrations with their kinfolk which would continue into the early hours.
Captain Ciaran McGrath spoke from the heart when he said, “I was one year old when ye won the county final 25 years ago. I don’t remember anything about it but I have heard all the stories , read the reports and seen the videos. Ye were our heroes and it was ye who gave us the encouragement and the desire to go on and do what ye did. We have done that now and we’ll push on from here,” he said to tremendous applause.
Back to the Manager - “I can’t praise our lads enough for what they have achieved here today. They really took the game to Nenagh in the second half and things began to work out for us. Noel McGrath clicked with scores and John Meagher at centre back was tremendous. He has had a very tough few years with illness and injury, and even now he is still not right, but what a performance he produced. It was a great team performance all round and we are so proud of this achievement,” Declan said.