Westport heroes return home after famous Croke Park victory
Posted in Connect on February 21, 2017.
There were tears of joy and celebrations to remember in Dublin and Westport on Sunday as the town’s Intermediate GAA team became the first side from Mayo to capture an All Ireland title in their grade. In a pulsating final played in Croke Park, Westport hung on for victory in the dying moments having looked like they were going to win easily at various stages of the game against St Colmcille’s of Meath.
A huge crowd turned out at the Octagon in Westport despite the late hour and damp conditions to give their heroes a welcome to remember. Westport manager Damian Loftus hailed ‘a magnificent group of players’ at the rapturous reception on Sunday night. Speaking from the balcony of the Town Hall Theatre, the Dubliner praised the supporters for serving as a ‘16th man’ in the final at Croke Park, and predicted big things for the players. “I am so proud of what these guys have achieved, a magnificent group of players, but you guys have to be so proud of these heroic sons of Westport,” he continued. “This is the first chapter of what’s going to be a book of many chapters of success for these guys.”
Echoing comments he made in Croke Park after their one-point victory over Meath side St Colmcille’s, team captain Westport heroes return home after famous Croke Park victory Brian McDermott said the numbers who attended the midnight homecoming was ‘unbelievable’, adding: “The way that Westport get behind their own is absolutely mad”. Lee Keegan, named Footballer of the Year in November for his exploits with Mayo, said winning the All-Ireland club title represented ‘the pinnacle of my career’, and paid tribute to his team-mates. “Today is a very special day for Westport,” he told the crowd, estimated at between 3,000 and 4,000. “These lads beside me have made me a very proud man today and a very proud Westport man. And to see ye all beside me and in front of me today, it means so much to me and Westport. Listen, today is a day to be remembered for life, because All-Irelands are hard won … It’s very emotional, and it’s great to see so many people here supporting us tonight, so late.”
Club chairman Austin Groden hailed the players, management and supporters. He also remembered people ‘who have done an awful lot for Westport GAA Club over the years’ who are no longer with us – men like Denis Carroll, Johnny Groden, Dinny Harris and Seamus Geraghty, who ‘contributed enormously’ over the years. “Today something has happened to Westport GAA Club, and it’ll never be the same again,” he predicted. Cllr Brendan Mulroy, Cathaoirleach of the West Mayo Municipal District, said that the management team had delivered ‘nothing short of a miracle’ and invited goalscorer Oisín McLaughlin to ‘take a bow’. “Not alone have we got the best town to live in; not alone have we got the best intermediate team in Ireland; not alone have we got the best footballer in Ireland; but today we broke the mould, because today we’ve seen the best goal that was ever scored in Croke Park!” he said, to repeated cheers.
Michael Ring, TD, Minister of State for Regional Economic Development, singled out the ‘family members’ of players and management for particular mention. Apologising that his voice was ‘gone’ from shouting, he added: It was a great match. I thought at the end we wouldn’t be bringing the cup home, but we brought it home!” And, noting that it was only February, he predicted that they would return ‘when we bring back the All-Ireland senior [title]!”
Mayo News – Tuesday 21st February 2017