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THE HIGHLAND KINGS; SCOTTISH CUP HEROES CHAMPIONS CALEY PARTY WITH THOUSANDS OF FANS Inverness given huge welcome home after winning first big trophy in 21-year history.

Byline: GARY CRUDEN g.cruden@dailyrecord.co.uk

INVERNESS was awash with red and blue yesterday as thousands of Caley Thistle fans gave their cup final heroes a big welcome home.

Crowds lined the streets as the proud players showed off the Scottish Cup while travelling in an open-top bus from their stadium to the Northern Meeting Park, where about 5000 partying fans greeted them.

As the rain clouds parted and the sun shone through, supporters of all ages showed their appreciation to the players and management.

They waved flags, flew kites, blew bubbles and even sang for their Highland heroes.

Fans erupted as manager John Hughes took the stage to individually introduce his backroom staff and players before Provost Alex Graham presented captain Graeme Shinnie with the City of Inverness Medal.

Season ticket holder Graham said: "It's a great day for Inverness as a community and a city and for the football supporters seeing them reach this remarkable level of achievement.

"I was amazed when I got up on stage and saw how many people were here - and there were hundreds and hundreds lining the streets."

The players lapped up the adulation, snapping selfies as the crowd cheered on.

Right-back David Raven said: "This is a great buzz, this is unbelievable. This is what it's all about - and it's party time."

About 14,000 Inverness fans had travelled to Hampden in Glasgow on Saturday to watch their team win the first major trophy in the club's 21-year history.

Many of the Caley faithful have followed the club since they were formed when Caledonian and Inverness Thistle merged.

David Clayton, 32, of the city, said: "The game was, apart from my two wee kids, the greatest moment of my life.

"I was a supporter of Caledonian before the merger when I was a young kid and then we started going every week - and I've had a season ticket every year.

"I never once in my lifetime thought I would see this. It's an incredible journey."

Aileen Ogilvie, 28, from Perth, said: "I've been a Caley fan since 1994. The first game I ever went to was the first Caley Thistle game and I've been going from then.

"The atmosphere at the game was incredible with all the singing and the card display.

"It's fantastic seeing this many people come out and support it and to see it in the Highlands."

Jennifer Mitchell, 28, from Aberdeen, added: "I've seen them go from the third division up to third in the Premier and then winning the cup.

"It's amazing. It's great to see there is football outside of the central belt - and we're pretty good at it."

For Iain Mackenzie, 48, from Dunfermline, the 2-1 victory against Falkirk means he can take the bragging rights to work today.

He explained: "I'm a Caley fan but I work in Falkirk. That's me into work on Monday with a football top and scarf.

"We've had family connections with the club for a long, long time - uncles and cousins played for them."

Manager Hughes, who was joined by his twin daughters Jessica and Victoria, said he hoped the victory would inspire the next generation of players - and Matthew McIlhatton, 10, from Inverness, was one of the many young fans hooked.

He said: "The game was good. I've not really seen anything like it before.

"The atmosphere was the best part but it was a nervous afternoon."

But the celebrations took their toll on some supporters, including one four-legged fan in Nairn.

Two-year-old retriever Harris appeared to have had a bit too much of Scotland's national drink as he toasted the team's success.

CAPTION(S):

JOY Aileen Ogilvie and Jennifer Mitchell

DELIGHTED David Clayton and son Ryan

THISTLE DO Fans turn out for party. But celebrations are too much for Harris, below

PICTURE: SNS GROUP

DAD'S THE ONE Boss John Hughes's proud twin daughters get their hands on the cup

WE'VE DONE IT Team party at Northern Meeting Park. Below, open-top bus parade
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Words:667
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