Strains of The Galtee Mountain Boy and Slievenamon rang out loud and proud from the steps of the Cathedral of the Assumption on Monday evening as Tipperary’s minor footballers were welcomed back home with the Tom Markham Cup for company – the first time ever for the famous trophy to be won on the field of play by The Premier County.
A couple of thousand people crammed into the Cathedral yard and lined the streets outside as the team bus made it’s way from the Horse and Jockey Inn to the famous landmark, where they were greeted, in keeping with tradition, by the Patron of the GAA, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.
Not even the inclement weather could dampen the enthusiasm of those who turned out to greet the first Tipp minor team to win the All-Ireland football final since 1934. They came in their droves to pay homage to a team which had participated in one of the most dramatic minor finals in years – the finest Archbishop Clifford has seen in his lifetime, as he explained to the crowd.
The players were introduced to the attendance by PRO of the County Board, Ger Ryan and they lived the moment. They were at one on the steps – a group of young men who had taken on the best the country had to offer – and beat them. Undoubtedly it was their oneness and sense of team which helped them over the winning line on Sunday – that had been fostered throughout the course of the season and it was quite evident at the homecoming on Monday that these players will be friends for life as a result of their achievement.
Mayor Micheal Lowry, Mayor of North Tipperary; Mayor Michael Fitzgerald, Mayor of South Tipperary; and Mayor John Kennedy, Mayor of Thurles; were also in attendance alongside public representatives, supporters and hordes of children – all of whom came to give the players he reception they deserved, the reception of champions.
There had been tears on Sunday afternoon with the emotions spilling over in Croke Park – by Monday evening though the tears were gone and were replaced by wide smiles, delighted faces.
Archbishop Clifford told those present that 22 of the Tipperary panel ( 34 in total) were over six feet in height – by Sunday evening, they were all ten feet tall, he said. Describing the game as “dramatic and thrilling” he said that the minor final was the best he has ever seen in his many years attending All-Ireland Final day in Croke Park.
“Liam McGrath had a hand in everything and it wasn’t long before he had his two hands on the cup when it was being presented,” he said. Archbishop Clifford recalled a conversation he had with Bill Ryan Laha from Loughmore – one of the survivors of Bloody Sunday. He asked Archbishop Clifford, a native of Kerry, to help promote football in the county because there were very decent people involved in the game in Tipperary. Those same people deserved every congratulations on this historic night, Archbishop Clifford said, because they stuck with the game through thick and thin.
Football Board Chairman Noel Morris recalled the many people who worked so hard to bring the victory about – a victory which did not just happen, but was made to happen over many months and indeed years. He mentioned the many famous Tipperary captains who climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand and said that Liam McGrath was a fitting man to follow in their footsteps. He paid particular tribute to the McGrath’s of Loughmore – one of the finest GAA families in The Premier County.
County Board Chairman Barry O’Brien was thrilled with the large attendance which turned out to greet the players and management team. And, he joined with team Manager David Power in thanking everyone for their support and for turning out for the homecoming. The Manager revealed that the team had come together on 112 occasions over the course of the season and he paid tribute to his selectors and backroom team for their commitment to the cause.
Eventhough the evening was turning wet, there was no desire for people to leave the scene. Tipp’s inspirational full back John Meagher was cajoled into singing The Galtee Mountain Boy – no stranger to the stage, the defender was joined by the entire panel, arm-in-arm as they repeated Pat Kerwick’s Croke Park exploits of twelve months previously.
The evening was rounded off then with a rendition of Tipperary’s anthem – Slievenamon – by the Vice Chairman of the County Board, Sean Nugent.
An historic reception had come to an end, but it was on to Loughmore then, where the party would go on long into the night.