Crowds cheer home Tyrone GAA squad after All-Ireland final
THEY may not have brought Sam home this time, but they received a heroes' welcome all the same.
Hundreds of cheering fans turned out yesterday to welcome back the Tyrone GAA squad after their gallant display in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park.
Dressed in their county colours, crowds gathered in Aughnacloy and later at Healy Park in Omagh for homecoming events to celebrate the team's achievement.
The Red Hands competed in their first senior final for 10 years on Sunday, but lost out to an all-conquering Dublin team who secured the Sam Maguire Cup for a fourth year in a row.
Build-up in Tyrone to the men's senior football final this year had seen excited fans bedeck towns and villages in red and white – and even a 'Sam-mobile' taking inspiration from the Pope-mobile tour the county.
Supporters again waved flags and held aloft banners as they lined the street in Aughnacloy yesterday as the players and coaches crossed the border.
Team captain Mattie Donnelly thanked fans for their unstinting backing throughout the championship.
"It's not the homecoming we had planned, but we really do appreciate from the bottom of our hearts the support that you have shown us throughout the year, from the very start of it," he said.
"We can't wait to get back and start the process of kicking the door down, and we look forward to going on that journey with you as well."
Entertainment was provided by local band The Knights in Aughnacloy and by More Power to Your Elbow at Healy Park.
Tyrone chairman Michael Kerr also paid tribute to the county's loyal supporters.
"The fans have been brilliant, they have always been very supportive of this team, but they have good reason to be supportive, because the fellows have given them anything that any Tyrone fan would want," he said.
"They have given them great days out, we have toured the country in the qualifiers, we had a great Super 8 campaign, and then to get to the All-Ireland final caps a brilliant year for Tyrone.
"We're now back at the top table, and that's where these boys want to be, and sometime in the near future we'll make sure that Sam comes up the road. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later."
He added: "We have made great progress from last year, and if we make the same progress next year, there's no telling where we could be."
- 'Don't stop believing' is Mickey Harte's plea to Tyrone
- Match Report: Imperious Dublin simply too good for gutsy Tyrone
- Jim Gavin equals Kerry legend Mick O'Dwyer as Dublin power to four in-a-row
- Delighted midfielder Brian Fenton hails four in-a-row for mighty Dublin
- Pat Spillane: 'Let's hear it for the Dubs'
- Kenny Archer: Brilliant boys in blue Dublin leave Tyrone's Red Hands feeling green
- I toyed with walking away, but not after suffering Dub defeat insists Colm Cavanagh
- Frantic finish fails to mask Dublin's superiority
- The last and sweetest time Tyrone were All-Ireland champions
- Kerry's superb second-half takes them to a minor five in-a-row