Kieran Walsh

There were great scenes near the church at Ballygunner as crowds gathered to see the All-Ireland club champions return to Waterford.

Ballygunner manager Darragh O’Sullivan pictured with some young Ballygunner fans at the homecoming.

The chants went out as jubilant youth jumped  for joy.   They sang “there is only one Ballygunner” and “walking in a winter wonderland”. Players were held shoulder high including goal hero Harry Ruddle, holding the cup aloft, which they all did in turn to the crowd, as manager  Darragh O’ Sullivan introduced the players from an impromptu location at the church wall over looking the car  park.

Darragh told many of the younger fans there that if they train play well and get into another  successful team they can be there too.  It looks like Ballygunner are aiming for more finals in the future.

This was inspirational stuff and the joy was infectious, it was great to see so many smiling faces, as we emerge from two years of lockdowns.

We spoke with many who were there who made the journey  to Croke Park and wanted to share these special moments, like John Flood of Dungarvan Nissan and local  TD Matt Shanahan.

Matt reckons that this team can do more as they have the brains and the skills with great organisation. He was there to soak it all in, as he is a dedicated sports man.

There was almost a Christmas atmosphere as the young lads sang Winter Wonderland.

We had just driven down from Dublin and fortuitously saw the team bus stop on the bridge and get a Garda escort.

Munster Express photographer, Noel Browne was with the team all the way and got a few players to pose for a special a photo bringing the  cup over the bridge with the All-Ireland trophy, the last one was over 20 years ago with the under 21 title.

The bus passed along the Quay and got cheers from people outside the Bridge Hotel and elsewhere like McLearys and Jordans. Horns were beeped around 8.45pm, more fans came back by train and were collected for the journey out to Ballygunner via Newtown, where householders had flags out and waved them down along Williamstown Road.

Teenagers and younger players  were especially excited with their Ballygunner jerseys and flags, some misty rain dropped at times, but not many minded, sure we have all been wet in the past.

It was all so good natured, the first player we knew was Pauric Mahony whom we congratulated.

He did a brief sales stint in the Munster Express on graduating, he and his team were  among friends and neighbours in what was a unique bond that this Ballygunner team enjoy. We had time also to greet manager Darragh O Sullivan before formalities and speeches.

These were memorable moments and will be remembered for the future and as Darragh finished up his speech with “Up the Gunners” and they flew the Waterford  and county flag so well.

There’s only one Harry Ruddle, one Harry Ruddle sang the crowd at the Ballygunner homecoming on Saturday night last.

Photos: Noel Browne