MONDAY night’s return of the county’s victorious senior hurlers to the city was euphoric. It was a joy to see the wonder and utter devotion of the youngsters in the stand at Nowlan Park as their heroes were introduced to them one by one. And it was a Micheal O’Muircheartaigh like Ned Quinn of the GAA County Board who really got the crowd in a frenzy with the southern blas of his accent, matured by the Suir.
He even out did himself when he came to Henry Shefflin, “There are good hurlers and there are great hurlers but the greatest of them all is this man.” It sent the fans wild.
And the GAA, gardai and civic authorities can take a bow for organising what was by far the safest and best planned homecoming for many years where entire families heeded the advice of organisers and got to the pitch early to hear the voluptuous Edwina Grace of KCKLR 96 FM and the Kilkenny People get the crowd in the mood. Then it was over to local band, the Kilkenny’s and lead singer Cashin who delivered Shine On Kilkenny and other numbers with gusto.
The decision to switch the homecoming from the Market Yard in the centre of the city to Nowlan Park was vindicated with children and parents alike praising the GAA and the gardai for the decision. It was choreographed with military precision by Ins Liam Connolly and his team backed up the olunteers used by the GAA every weekend at the stadium. We certainly hope this team has a few more All Irelands in them but Monday night will forever remain with the people who attended and as Brian Cody’s former pupil, Alan Hayes and Davy Cashin of the Kilkenny’s sang the Rose of Mooncoin, a few shed a tear in heart-warming pride and others came close. knowing that this team, this management team and this set of county board officers will not be replaced.
Very few counties can boast a record 9 All Irelands in 13 years, a county board which is not in financial trouble and never got carried away with itself during the Celtic Tiger era and an adoring public who live and breath the game and hit every ball with their heroes. And maybe it was just the atmosphere but I could have sworn I saw a few swallows in Nowlan Park omn monday evenin. They obviously delayed their return to North Africa by a few days having watched the lads train there for the last number of months and were obviously anxious to perform one last fly-over for them before heading to sunnier climes.
And it was a proud Eoin Larkin who who was first out on the podium with the cup. Unlike during the game with Galway, he was unable to shake off the close marking Denis Rackard Cody who never took his eye off the cup to ensure it was handed back to the next plerayer. And there was a special cheer for Walter Walsh from Tullogher-Rosbercon and he took it all in his long stride. After receiving the chants of city and county he slipped into the back of the crowd of players at the side of the stage not wanting to hog the limelight. Another silent hero, Michael Rice, sidelined through injury, also received the adulation of the public. What a servant to the cause.
Eoin Larkin then said a few words of thanks and asked Tommy Walsh out on stage but before the tullaroan man could take up the offer, Ned Quinn gently stepped in took the microphone and asked Brian Cody to speak to ensure there was no possible repeat of a John Mulhall type song like last year. The minute Brian Cody started to speak, the place fell silent as players and the crowd waited on his every word. His message was the same as every other year. He pointed out that the youngsters watching were the senior hurlers of tomorrow and he asked them to keep playing. He praised the clubs for all their work at juvenile level in passing on the skills and principles of the game and said it was the rock on which Kilkenny hurling was founded.
Chairman of the GAA county board, Paul Kinsella thanked all involved with the set up and said he felt sure that once the management and team had a chance to soak in the atmosphere and had time to take in what thy had achieved, and once they were in the right frame of mind, they would come back next year and on the evidence of Monday night, they will all return next season.
Mayor of the city, Cllr Sean O’hArgain had earlier said he had no doubt that this Kilkenny team was the greatest of all time while Chairwoman of Kilkenny Co Council, Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick, a good camogie player in her day, asked and received three cheers for the team.