IN SEPTEMBER 1995, the people of Dublin turned out en masse, packing the capital’s streets to welcome their All-Ireland heroes home after victory over Tyrone.
There hasn’t been an awful lot to shout about in Dublin GAA circles since then but tonight, 16 years on, the boys in blue reignited the party with a homecoming celebration on Merrion Square.
After a day packed with hospital visits, media requests and not a lot of sleep by the looks of things, team captain Bryan Cullen and manager Pat Gilroy strode out onto the stage shortly before 7.30pm, each with one hand on the most famous prize in football — the Sam Maguire.
The familiar strains of “Come on you Boys in Blue,” repeatedly heard across the city well into the small hours of the morning, crescendoed from the thousands of fans wedged into the surrounding streets.
Cullen and Gilroy just smiled. They had done it.
“It’s a great day for the whole county,” a hoarse Cullen croaked.
We’ve all suffered long together, it’s been a long time since we’ve had this trophy here in Dublin. It’s a great day for all of us.
And all of them had their say.
Gilroy declared that “homework is off” for tomorrow, while Ger Brennan shared his recollection of the game’s nail-biting finale. “I felt very worried because he [Cluxton] is a bad kicker to be honest,” he joked. “I thought someone else should have taken it.”
Then the singing started.
Goal-scoring hero Kevin McManamon led the team in his adaptation of Damien Dempsey’s ‘Sing All Our Cares Away,’ paying tribute to his team-mates and the selectors.
Cluxton has a role, he stands between the goal. He plays football with ease, has no bother with the frees.
Mick Fitz, Rory and Cian — they are each tall, fast and lean. They love to get the girls. The poshest full-back line in the world.
Before departing for the captain’s home club of Skerries Harps to continue the evening’s festivities, there was just enough time for the canon of Dublin’s famous ballads to be given a collective airing.
Ray Boyne, the team’s stats man, led the chorus of ‘Dublin in the Rare Old Times’; David Henry chipped in with a few bars of ‘Molly Malone’; and selector David Hickey — a player when Dublin beat Kerry in the 1976 final — rounded off proceedings with ‘The Auld Triangle.’
With Sam in tow, they headed off to their next destination. Those 6am starts for training are a distant memory at this stage.