After three years, over 20,000 Limerick supporters have finally got the chance to show their appreciation to the Limerick hurling team which has now delivered three All-Ireland hurling titles in a row.
There was a huge gathering of fans in their green and white jerseys at the Gaelic grounds in the Treaty County this evening for the first properly celebrated team homecoming since 2018, when the team finally broke a 45-year famine of All-Ireland victories.
Covid-19 restrictions prevented any gatherings for the team victories in both 2020 and 2021, so tonight was a very special night for the team.
These four All-Ireland titles in the past five years are being described as a golden era for Limerick hurling. This team of athletes have delivered so much for their supporters in that time, exorcising the long famine of victories since the win, also against Kilkenny, in 1973.
Many fans have expressed their joy and delight at what the team achieved, and many never thought they would see one All Ireland in their lifetime, not to mind three.
Others spoke of how their achievement has lifted the citizens of the city and county after the hardship and restrictions of the pandemic, when large gatherings or celebrations were prohibited.
The team's homecoming journey started at Colbert train station this evening, where thousands of enthusiastic and emotional fans lined the route as the team open top bus made its way through the city suburbs, across Sarsfield Bridge, up the Ennis Road and onto to the Gaelic grounds. They were clapped and cheered all the way.
And another unleashing of pent-up appreciation and emotion greeted them at the Gaelic grounds when team captain Declan Hannon and Limerick manager John Kiely finally came on stage with the Liam MacCarthy trophy.
Hannon said it was an extra special night for both the team and the fans, and particularly the younger hurling supporters and children, who were finally able to come along and celebrate their success and victory.
Team member centre forward Kyle Hayes agreed. He said it was hard to put into words what the support of the fans meant to them. They were the most loyal of supporters, he said, and the fact that they could finally celebrate with the crowds of fans made this win particularly special.
The late singer Dolores O'Riordan was especially remembered as the Cranberries anthem 'Dreams’ was sung with gusto by Limerick singer Emma Langford, the entire team on stage and the audience.
The team plan to visit their various clubs this week to show off the famous All-Ireland trophy and that will start a round of visits to their local county and city clubs over the coming weeks, and onto school visits in September.
These celebrations for this very special team will be savoured for some time yet, and they will certainly go down in Limerick’s hurling history as the dream team who have achieved so much and delivered so much joy to a sporting county.