They sheltered under umbrellas, in bars; shop doorways; hotel entrances and stood tight against the walls of buildings to shelter from the rain on a Donegal July evening as they awaited the return of their victorious Donegal team, Ulster champions for the second year running.
A large crowd, young, old, and colorfully adorned braved the elements to welcome home their heroes.
The damp conditions did not dampen the spirit of the crowd as they waited patiently for their first glimpse of the team, entertained by the spirit of ‘Free Whiskey’ who played for the crowd as they waited.
Suddenly the arrival of the team was announced and the Ulster champions were led into the Diamond by the ‘Donegal Town Community Band’, which had also done the county proud when they played to the packed house in Clones on Sunday afternoon.
Donegal captain Michael Murphy and the leader of the ‘Donegal Town Community Band’ were both called onto the stage proudly displaying their trophies to a huge ovation from the crowd.
Sean Dunnion of the Four Masters Club proudly introduced the players; backroom staff and management team onto the stage to the delight of an ecstatic Donegal crowd.
Mayor Tom Conaghan addressed the crowd and spoke of the County’s pride at the team’s achievements to date. “As I said last year, Jim does it his way,” said Tom, who declared Jim a ‘Freeman of Donegal Town’.
Captain Michael Murphy spoke of his pride at leading such an inspiring group of players that form the county squad and thanked the backroom staff and management team for their support and commitment to the team.
The loudest cheer of the night was saved for manager and crowd favourite Jim McGuinness, who has done such a fantastic job since taking charge of the county team.
McGuinness paid tribute to the support his team had received from the county board and clubs around the county. He thanked his number two, Rory Gallagher for his support during the year and praised his players for their hard work and outstanding commitment.
“We have got everything we have asked for this year from the county board and we have a very good working relationship,” said McGuinness, who felt the team’s performance in the second half was fantastic and reflected the support which they had received.
The manager thanked the local media, who he felt had a great working relationship with the county panel. “We will now go to Croke Park and represent the county as best as we can. I don’t know where that journey will take us,” said McGuinness.
Finally, McGuinness remembered Tomas Maguire, the Ardara player who tragically lost his life earlier this year. Held aloft on stage was a Brazilian national flag, with Tomas’s name inscribed on it’s face.
There is a saying in Brazil, “Deus a Brasilero” meaning God is Brazilian.
The large crowd of Donegal supporters will be hoping that the Gods will be smiling on them when their team takes to the field for the quarter-final of the All-Ireland at Croker on the August Bank Holiday weekend.