It was a little like Hamlet without the prince but there was no air of despondency at the Tipperary after-match banquet in the Burlington Hotel on Sunday night even though the prized possession, the Liam McCarthy Cup, was absent.
Disappointment yes, but no doom or gloom, as there was full realisation of what this team has done for the county’s morale over the past three years.
“We will remain positive, we will knuckle down and we will be back”, said captain Eoin Kelly.
The Mullinahone man and his team mates received a warm welcome when they returned to the hotel after the match. There was no reprise of ‘Slievenamon’ that greeted their arrival with the cup a year earlier but the fans gathered to greet them left them in no doubt of how highly regarded they are.
Again when they made their way into the function room for the meal they received a standing ovation - although you could detect from some faces that the players might have welcomed a more low key reception.
But their efforts were lauded by Jarlath Daly, president of the Tipperary Associaton in Dublin who hosted the reception; Tipp Supporters Club chairman John Tierney; patron of the GAA and Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford; and County Board chairman Barry O’Brien.
“We came here tonight as proud Tipperary people and we will go home as proud Tipperary people and we will all do what we can to get this team back to the top”, said Mr Tierney.
The Dublin City Manager said the outrage of 2009 was replaced by the elation in 2010 and now the disappointment of 2011 but no one felt that more than the players and management.
Eoin Kelly concurred, saying that they were very disappointed but the players would put their hands up and say they hadn’t performed on the day.
“However with the age profile of the squad so young I have no doubt but Tipperary will be back and better days lie ahead.
It was always going to be a tough season after such a high last year but we did break new ground in that we are the first Tipperary team to win a Munster title after previously winning the All Ireland since 1965. And hopefully there will be more silverware in the future”, he told the packed attendance.
He paid tribute to the ‘courageous’ management team of Declan Ryan, Tommy Dunne and Michael Gleeson who had taken over the team this year and to the ‘most positive backroom team you could get’
Manager Declan Ryan remarked that it was a tough night for anyone who had blue and gold blood running through their veins as the one guest they wanted was not there.
However he said how proud he was of all the players who worked so hard and trained so diligently since January and in that time they had over 100 training sessions. The year had gone so quickly and he hoped the next one would as well so the ‘missing guest’ could be present in 2012.
He paid glowing tribute to the backroom team, to the medical personnel who had got Michael Cahill fit after turning on his ankle the previous Thursday, to trainer Cian O’Neill, to liaison officer Ger Ryan and to his closest colleagues Tommy Dunne and Michael Gleeson and he didn’t think you could meet two more honest and straight people than them who had nothing but Tipperary’s interest at heart.
He also thanked the wives and girlfriends for their support and patience, the County Board, Tipp Association, Tipp Supporters Club and sponsors Skoda and like Eoin Kelly, wished the minor footballers well in their All Ireland final.
County chairman Barry O’Brien said Tipperary may win or lose but they won’t go away and they won’t lie down.
He paid tribute to the management team for the bravery they showed in answering the county’s call and taking over a team that had won the All Ireland the previous year and they did remarkably well in reaching the final in their first year.
Mr O’Brien described the players as second none who represented themselves, their clubs, their families and their county with pride and passion. “We are very proud of you”, he told them.
And he added - “Tipperary is a proud county with a proud tradition. We may have lost the game today but we are not defeated. We had a bad day at the office but we accept that gracefully and Tipperary will rise again.”.