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Darach Honan and Shane O'Donnell share a quiet moment on the Croke Park turf following the All-Ireland senior hurling final replay against Cork at Croke Park. Photograph by John Kelly.

What a day!

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WHEN the jubilant fans had streamed out through the gates and into the darkening Dublin streets, Darach Honan and Shane O’Donnell took a quiet moment to sit on the hallowed turf of Croke Park and reflect on the momentous achievement the Clare hurlers had just pulled off.

Darach Honan and Shane O'Donnell share a quiet moment on the Croke Park turf following the All-Ireland senior hurling final replay against Cork at Croke Park. Photograph by John Kelly.
Darach Honan and Shane O’Donnell share a quiet moment on the Croke Park turf following the All-Ireland senior hurling final replay against Cork at Croke Park. Photograph by John Kelly.

John Kelly’s photo captures perfectly the unity that is within the squad. O’Donnell took Honan’s spot on the starting line-up and turned in a heroic performance to complete the first goal hat-trick in an All-Ireland hurling final since Lar Corbett in 2010. He tagged on three points on his way to being named as man of the match.

Honan came on for O’Donnell with five minutes to go and scored a goal at the end of a blistering six-minute spell that opened up a six-point window between the sides and put a lid on the Rebels’ hopes of swiping the Liam MacCarthy Cup from the Banner men’s grasp.

Honan was understandably disappointed at not starting the game but lauded his replacement’s performance. “I was disappointed earlier in the week. I found out on Wednesday that I wasn’t going to be in the line-up.

“In fairness to Shane, he had a great game. He got three great goals and, in that way, the right decision was made,” the magnanimous Clonlara man noted.

“At the end of the day Clare won the All-Ireland and that’s the most important thing,” he went on. “It’s a brilliant, unbelievable feeling at the moment. I was just trying to soak it in as much as I could out on the field. The scenes of all the people and the faces in the crowd, it means so much to all of us.”

Like many of his teammates, he is confident there is a great future ahead. “To win two All-Ireland titles in a month is brilliant and that, with the age profile of the panel, makes the future look really bright,” he said, before warning he will be looking to get his place back. “It will be tough but that’s the way to have it,” he said.

For now, there is no time to rest. “The club championship has suffered as a result of our success. That has been justified now with the win but we will have to re-focus in the next few days to get ready for round two in the domestic competition,” he concluded.

All-Ireland inter-county hurling successes are a scarce commodity in Clare, so two in as many weeks is certainly reason for celebration, as the fans showed on Sunday night when an estimated 30,000 turned out in Ennis to welcome both the senior and U-21 teams home.

All-Ireland replays rarely live up to the standard of the drawn game but this was certainly not the case when Clare and Cork renewed rivalry on Saturday. It was end-to-end stuff from the throw-in to the final whistle, with superb scores taken at both ends and it actually surpassed the drawn tie in terms of quality and entertainment.

The final whistle sparked off celebrations that have continued across the county all week, following Sunday’s homecoming in Cratloe, Sixmilebridge, Newmarket and Clarecastle, on the way to the official welcome at the Fairgreen.

This very well organised event delivered a welcome €1 million boost to the town.

“The event was hugely beneficial to businesses here. Those in hospitality were especially pleased with it and benefited most,” said Rita McInerney, chief executive of Ennis Chamber.

“Considering that a lot of people had restrained their spending in the last month or so to go to the game and the replay, when money was spent outside the county, this was a great opportunity for people to celebrate and spend some money here. If you roughly base it on each person spending an average of €30 in the town on the night, obviously some will have spent much more, others less, that is close to €1 million as a minimum that was added to the town and that was just in one night, possibly even more than that. Even from the point of view of people buying flags, jerseys and things in the run up to it, it has been great. We are really happy with how the homecoming was organised and facilitated by the council,” she said.

According to Charlie O’Meara of Moroney’s Pub and chairman of the Clare branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, “It was a great weekend for the vintners. There was a great atmosphere around town and the homecoming was well organised. It was a serious boost to vintners but it will be a week or two before we really know how much of a boost it was. I think it will have a benefit in the coming weeks and months too because the coverage of the homecoming was a great showcase for Ennis and was all positive. I would say Saturday night was better than an average Saturday night [despite many Clare fans travelling to the game] and Sunday night was really great. There was a good buzz around the town and we badly needed something like that.”

Gardaí complimented the public for their behaviour over the weekend saying, “everyone seemed to get caught up in the atmosphere of the event and it was very good natured. We were delighted to be part of it and have to thank everyone for their assistance in ensuring that everything went off safely”.

Superintendent Derek Smart of Ennis Garda Station said the weekend “was no worse than any other and better than most”.

The homecoming was viewed by 15,600 people on all five continents, including some surprising locations, via the Ennis App and The US, Australia, Canada, Spain and the UAE all featured prominently as might be expected. But Banner folk were also logging on from Ghana, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Oman and the Cayman Islands.

A solitary Clare man or woman even brought the great game to a British overseas territory, the Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. There was also one viewer in Israel, an emotional Oisín O’Donnell, brother of Clare hat-trick hero and man-of-the-match, Shane.

The pictures for the broadcast were supplied by Paschal Brooks’ Clare TV while another Ennis firm, Acton Web, provided the internet technology.
Michael Byrne, CEO of Acton Web, was delighted with the international take-up. “To add almost 16,000 to the 30,000 who attended the homecoming in person, surpassed all our expectations,” he admitted.

Mayor of Ennis Councillor Mary Coote Ryan acknowledged, “It’s so special to be able to involve those who have left our shores and it reinforces what a great day this is for all Clare people”.

Meanwhile, the home parish of team captain Pat Donnellan was the focus on Monday evening. In excess of 2,000 turned out and cheered the All-Ireland heroes as they marched from Hamilton Park to the stage in the village, led by the captain and his clubmate Conor Cooney, who was also part of the victorious squad.

On Tuesday evening, Clonlara, home to six of the squad, Domhnall O’Donovan, John Conlon, Colm Galvin, Darach Honan and the O’Connell brothers, Nicky and Cathal, also accorded the team another memorable reception.

On Wednesday evening, the players donned their gear for the first time since Saturday to take part in the annual GOAL challenge.

Over the coming months, the expectation is the Liam MacCarthy Cup will visit every parish in the county, as well as been taken to schools by members of the management and panel.

On this Friday night, three of the central figures in the success, Davy Fitzgerald, Pat Donnellan and hat-trick hero Shane O’Donnell, will be guests on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.

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