A proud Portroe welcomes home the two Liams
Pouring rain failed to dampen the wild excitement that enveloped Portroe on last Wednesday evening when Liam Sheedy brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to his native place, reports Peter Gleeson.
To tumultuous applause and resounding cheers, the bus carrying the Tipperary senior hurling manager and his victorious All Ireland winning squad and backroom team drove in the main gates of the local club GAA grounds at around 8pm, the sparkle of the gleaming silver cup through the windscreen delighting all present.
A huge banner hung from the roof of the spectator stand on the side of the hurling pitch, declaring: "Portroe the Parish of Dreams Welcomes Home the Two Liams".
The pouring rain kept many people away, but there was still a good crowd, and it was exuberant.
A local man offered the opinion that if it was a fine evening there would have been parked cars along boths sides of the road all the way to the next village of Newtown, two miles away.
Yet, those who showed up - children and adults dressed in blue and gold and waving flags and bunting - were in party mode and many in the crowd brandished car registration signs that read: 19 T LIAM.
Portroe Club Chairman Paddy Connors took to the rostrum to tell all present how it was his great privilage to welcome the two Liams' to the village – Liam Sheedy and the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Not one, but two, national victories were being celebrated in Portroe as the 16 local club members that won the All Ireland Sevens title for the village were paraded on stage to the blaring music of the Queen hit, "We are the Champions".
The Master of Ceremonies was the former Labour Party councillor Sean Creamer who gave a Man of the Match performance in the role as he wound up the crowd prior to the arrival on stage of the number one act – Sheedy and the Star Makers.
The roars of "Tipp, Tipp, Tipp" had started as the glittering guests made their appearance. It was time for people in charge of the music to play Phil Lynott's "The Boys Are Back in Town".
"Did we ever think we'd see the day," roared a pure delighted Creamer as the crowd cheered.
"A big welcome from the little village to the All Ireland Champions of 2019!" he boomed. The crowd went mad.
Team Captain Seamus Callanan told those present of what a "massive privilege" it was to bring the MacCarthy Cup back to the native place of their manager, Sheedy.
The digital scoreboard in the grounds was switched on for the event. "And you don't have to go to Specsavers to believe what you see," declared Sean Creamer as he read the score aloud: “Tipperary 3-25 Kilkenny 0-20”. The crowd went mad again!
Former Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson - himself basking in the glory of being named Player of the Tournament in the All Ireland Sevens - individually introduced every member of the Tipp squad and backroom team to thunderous applause.
Then it was Liam Sheedy's turn.
"I don't know how to introduce this man, only to say that he is the next thing to the Messiah," declared Creamer, who looked as if he was ready to get down on his knees and hold his hands aloft on the apparition of the great one.
Sheedy, the man of the moment, spoke humbly about the great honour it was for him to bring back the Liam MacCarthy Cup to his native village. He described his team as "massive ambassadors" for Tipperary.
He thanked Portroe native Declan Kelly and his comany, Teneo, for sponsoring the team. "What he has allowed me to do in terms of preparation for 2019 has been nothing short of phenomenal...we have been great friends here in Portroe for the last 40 years and we grew up together. I really appreciate all he has done."
Sean Creamer recalled momentous events of the past in Portroe – of how crowds paraded their own newly elected TD and MEP, Alan Kelly, up the hill of the main street in the village. Locals had marched its hurling team up the same route after they won the North Senior hurling final in 2012. They paraded their very own Rose of Tralee winner, Aoife Kelly, in 2008 and Miss Ireland contest winner, Niamh Kennedy in 2016.
"But when we bring these lads up the village [Sheedy and his team] its the sweetest trip Portroe has ever made!" boomed Sean Creamer again.
A member of the backroom outfit, John Sheedy, a brother of Liam, came to the microphone to sing a song his late mother, Bid, was renowned for singing to mark great occasions in the village.
"Happy are we all together," he crooned. "Happy are we one and all. May our lives be full of pleasure. May we rise and never fall."
The Tipperary hurlers linked arms and sang along with him. The crowd swayed over and back to the rhythm as Captain Callinan held the MacCarthy Cup over his head for all to see.
Happy were we one and all!