The city of Cork laid out a hero’s welcome for their league and cup double winners on the Grand Parade tonight.
For Cork City fans, it was an evening that will live long in the memory.
The U17 league title winners and the Women’s cup winners took the stage to raucous applause and cheering as the rebel army celebrated one of their most successful seasons in their history.
With the guests of honour arriving just before 7.30pm, thousands turned out to see City’s men’s team raise the two trophies on the streets of Cork for the first time since 1951.
After a nerve-racking day, the Leeside fans felt they had earned the right to let their hair down.
“We were thrilled after following them all year,” said Ronnie Hurley from Ballincollig who was celebrating with his wife Frances.
“With the league and we thought we would never get over the line when we were within one point and it took us about five games to get there.
“We thought we’d be up against it in the cup as well against Dundalk but we got a great win and a goal from our brilliant Frenchman,” added Ronnie, who revealed that the couple are in fact neighbours with not only Mark “Super Mac” McNulty but also captain Alan Bennett.
As the crowd began to grow on Grand Parade, City fans could barely contain their excitement as they waited to see their heroes take to the stage.
“It was a superb win, magnificent, terrific, all the buzz words” said Regina Spillane, of Nohoval who was covered head to toe in Cork City gear and waving the Leesiders flag proudly.
“Shane Griffin is my hero,” she added, expressing her delight at the former Reading defender’s performances for the Leesiders.
There was no shortage of heroes being praised as the celebration got underway with chants of “Mark McNulty baby” and “Benno” roaring through the crowd.
“Stephen Beattie is the man,” exclaimed James Kagney from Tory Top Road, Ballyphehane.
“It was a great occasion for Cork to have something sporting to celebrate, both men’s and women’s,” he added.
Young Luke Hurley (9) from Larchfield who was at the final on Sunday saved his praise for Gary Buckley, who he said is his favourite player.
“It was nail-biting stuff,” said his father Mark.
“He was a bit upset when they went behind with 15 minutes to go and maybe you’d think they might not be able to do it but they pulled it out of the bag and we were delighted again.
“Campion deserves a lot of applause and maybe he’ll get a run in the team now,” he added.
Mark Hurley also praised the huge crowd that had turned out to see their champions arrive in Cork city.
“It’s gate numbers that make football clubs so the more the merrier, we just need to get everyone out doing the same next year.” As thousands of City fans flocked to Dublin to witness history, those who remained behind remained glued to their television sets to do the same.
While there are shorter nails across Cork after the weekend, some were confident that their team would rise to the occasion.
“We weren’t too nervous (yesterday), more confident,” said Nora McGrath who was enjoying the festivities with her daughter Alysia.
“It was a great day especially it being the first time for the double,” she added.
Captain Johnny Dunleavy praised the City fans for turning out in droves as he called his team the most supported in the country.
“You wouldn’t get this anywhere else in Ireland,” he said and looking out at the thousand strong crowd singing, celebrating, revelling in occasion and history of it all, you would have to believe him.
“It’s a privilege to play in front of these fans every week,” he concluded.