The Kilkenny senior camogie team who played in the All-Ireland final PICTURE: PAT MOORE
It was a sad day on Monday last as supporters gathered in Kilkenny city to mourn their loss of the All-Ireland camogie final. Despite the players most valiant efforts, the Kilkenny Camogie team lost to Cork by a single point, with Cork scoring 0-14 to Kilkenny's 0-13 - a similar margin to last year.
The homecoming kicked off at half past five with a huge screen outside the Courthouse replaying the devastating match.
The weather was fitting for such a bittersweet event. Dark grey clouds hung heavily above the Courthouse as onlookers rewatched the girls' dreams being dashed in Croke Park.
Just before six o'clock, those looming clouds proved fatal as the rain began to pour. It didn't look hopeful that the team would have a huge crowd ready to greet them within an hour.
Thankfully, however, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, more supporters began to gather. By the time MC Brendan Hennessy appeared at half six, a crowd had gathered large enough in numbers that Hennessy must warn them to avoid spilling off the pavement and onto the road. Hennessy begins by thanking everyone for turning up on a "difficult evening to do so."
This sentiment was later repeated by Mayor Peter 'Chap' Cleere, who praised supporters for showing up despite the disappointing result and bad weather, stating that "it's very easy to support a victorious team but it's the real true supporters out here tonight".
The team were visibly moved by the cheering crowd's dedication as they emerged onto the balcony of Kilkenny Courthouse. Captain Shelly Farrell (of Thomastown) had unfortunately lost her voice after her gruelling efforts the day previous.
Kilkenny Camogie Chairman Martin Quilty made a short speech on her behalf, thanking all the players and management for "all their work and commitment to keep Kilkenny fighting" and of course thanking the "amazing supporters".
In his own speech, Quilty was candid about the "disappointment and heartbreak" endured by the team. He hinted towards the controversy surrounding referee Eamon Cassidy, who was even condemned by Kilkenny star Richie power after Sunday's game. However, Quilty declared that he "wouldn't blame any one individual for Kilkenny's loss".
Ann Downey's disappointment was palpable the second she took to the stage. She admitted that it had been "foremost in their minds that they would win". She praised the devastated players, describing them as an "incredible bunch of girls who are a credit to their clubs and families."
The evening ended on a more positive note as both Downey and Quilty promised to return to Croke Park next year. As the heartbroken ladies retreat back inside, fans can only hope they'll have better luck next time.