HOME ARE THE HEROES Pictured is the large crowd that gathered at The Fairgreen in Westport on Sunday evening to welcome home the newly crowned history making county champions. Pic: Conor McKeown
THEY gathered all along Bridge Street and trained their eyes out the Castlebar Road.
Flags fluttered in the wind, car horns cracked the sky and lights danced across the town of Westport as an expectant swarm awaited the return of the new county champions.
A few hours earlier car loads of young men had quietly slipped out of town headed for Castlebar and their date with destiny. Now, they were returning as heroes, history makers and champions. Many dare to dream but few experience the glorious reality of deliverance.
On Sunday afternoon the young men of Westport turned fantasy into reality and as night fell over the Clew Bay capital they were bringing Paddy Moclair home.
Earlier in the evening, Aslan, Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa were on the playlist as they danced around the big silver cup in the raucous winning dressing-room long after the last spectators had departed a quickly darkening MacHale Park.
Their long-cherished dream of winning the senior championship had been realised and it was time to sing, dance, hug and laugh in their own company.
Back the road, the crowds were beginning to gather and the smoke from the bonfires was already rising into the sky. But for a short, glorious time the blues brothers were in a wonderland all on their own. In the corridor outside the dressing-room, club chairman Charlie Lambert was on the phone busily trying to arrange a homecoming while manager Martin Connolly passed by wearing the broadest smile known to man.
“They’re loving it,” he said nodding towards the dressing-room as his players sang about a ‘Crazy World’ before the Moclair Cup was hugged tightly as they chanted, ‘One kiss is all it takes, fallin’ in love with me.’
The joy of friendship, the exuberance of youth and the realisation of utter happiness sculpted a picture which will never fade from minds of those fortunate enough to have witnessed it. Westport were champions. Their time had come.
Ninety minutes later the champions were within reach of their kingdom and the joy awaiting them there. All along Bridge Street the crowds had gathered and at the top of the town stood the mighty men of Kilmeena, ready to welcome home the heroes as they themselves had been joyously greeted in recent months.
Then, the word came through: “They’re coming in at Carrowbeg Stores” and children of all ages could hardly contain themselves. “Look at the blue flashing lights Johnny, they’re coming in the road,” an excited mother shouted to her son who was bubbling with excitement.
“He’s up since five this morning waiting for them to win it. He knew they would. He never doubted it for a second,” she told The Mayo News.
Moments later the cavalcade arrived and the place went crazy. Oisín McLaughlin held the cup towards the heavens as the ecstatic wagon train went up the middle of the town and turned right for The Quay.
While they were gone towards the ocean the crowds gathered at The Fairgreen where a trailer had been quickly located and music cut through the night. The excitement and anticipation there in front of The Mayo News offices knew no bounds and when the Garda escort led the heroes back into town the noise was deafening.
Paddy Moclair had arrived by the Carrowbeg; the boy who had been up since 5am was crying with joy and 135 years after the first Westport team kicked a competitive football they were finally kings of all they surveyed in Mayo.
Sometimes dreams do come true.