Civic receptions in Co Leitrim area a rarity but last Friday evening a fitting tribute was paid to the Leitrim senior hurling team and management for their magnificent achievement in winning the Lory Meagher Cup in Croke Park last June.
It was a wonderful occasion with the players and officials enjoying a relaxed gathering as they were honoured for their historic success.
Making a special presentation to the team, Cathaoirleach, Cllr Enda McGloin said this was the first civic reception held in the county since 2007 to mark the team's victory in Croke Park over Lancashire by 2-23 to 2-22.
Very enjoyable Civic Reception for Leitrim hurling team who won Lory Meagher cup last night. With Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council Enda McGloin @FineGael @leitrimcoco @LeitrimGAA @FGcllrs pic.twitter.com/fkQmWXkeby— Senator Frank Feighan (@FrankFeighan) September 21, 2019
Cllr McGloin paid tribute to captain Declan Molloy for his memorable speech from the steps of the Hogan Stand.
He referenced the team's loss in the 2017 final to Warwickshire but said that heartbreak was forgotten as the Leitrim team showed great character and spirit to force the game to extra time and ultimately win the cup.
The success sees Leitrim promoted to the Nicky Rackard Cup competition for 2020.
Cllr McGloin said the success of the county team followed the historic achievement of Carrick Hurling Club winning the Connacht Junior Championship earlier this year and the county Under 17 team winning the Táin Og league last July.
He also referenced one of the more notable stories around Leitrim's success, that of Zak Moradi who arrived in Carrick- on-Shannon in 2007 as a refugee and realised his dream to win an All Ireland in the Leitrim jersey.
Cllr McGloin paid tribute to the late Paddy Phelan, a former staff member in Leitrim County Council, who he described as a fantastic servant to hurling in Leitrim who brought passion for the sport to the county that did not have a hurling tradition.
Likewise, to team manager, Martin Cunniffe who soldiered alongside Paddy for many years.
He said he hopes the win will instill that same passion in the young people of the county and will hopefully establish more success in the years to come.
Terence Boyle, Chairman of Leitrim GAA, said this is his last year as Chairman and it is one that will live long in his memory with the footballers gaining promotion to Division 3, the hurlers winning the Lory Meagher and the centre of excellence opened in Annaduff.
He also thanked Leitrim County Council for its support of their 'wall' project and all the assistance they have given them.
Mr Boyle said the hurlers' success gave a huge lift to the GAA in the county.
He too remembered the late Paddy Phelan who he said was there in spirit and no doubt looking down proudly on them.
Martin Cunniffe said it was a great honour for him to be part of one of the smallest management teams in the country and it was a proud day for him and all the team.
GAANOW has the highlights of Saturday’s thrilling Lory Meagher Cup final, where Leitrim hurlers edged out Lancashire in extra time to capture the silverware. pic.twitter.com/HO1BbT3D8m— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 25, 2019
He paid tribute to team trainer, Michael Coleman from Galway, Paddy O'Connor, Hilary Phelan and team physio Lucia Tyrell, as well as his own family for their support.
He also remembered Paddy Phelan and Bernard Murray and thought of them that great day in Croke Park.
Team captain Declan Molloy said he was honoured and privileged to attend the civic reception.
He recounted the story of how Michael Coleman came to train the Leitrim hurlers and he spoke of Michael's huge commitment over the past five years and the passion, confidence and belief he brought to the team.
Declan thanked Martin, Dolores and the Cunniffe family for their work and their love and passion for the game.
He also paid special tribute to the County Board who gave them everything they needed and did tireless voluntary work behind the scenes for which they are very grateful.