Galway may have lost the decider to Kerry but fans still turned out in huge numbers and it took the team several hours to make it back to the city after stopping in Ballinasloe and Tuam along the way before a reception at Pearse Stadium in Salthill.
Bonfires blazed in Barnaderg in the north of the county as the team bus went by Joyce’s home and there were also big crowds in Caltra and Mountbellew to greet the side after the county’s first All-Ireland appearance in 21 years.
“We can’t let that happen again, that a county like Galway can got that length without at least appearing in an All-Ireland final. Getting to the final has whetted the appetite not just for us but for supporters and the county.
“We are humbled today to see the crowds who have turned out. They were in Croke Park, we came up short, and yet they came out and made the effort to welcome us home.
“We now need to build on this and imagine what it would be like coming back here with silverware. We gave it everything, we had the support of the county behind us but in the end Kerry finished it out.
“They were beaten in a final a few years ago, maybe that experience got them over the line. I probably didn’t give them due credit afterwards but they were worthy winners and congratulations to them. It’s up to us now to build on this and go the next step,” said Joyce.
He said the future is bright for Galway. The Galway team which won the All-Ireland minor title two weeks ago accompanied them on their homecoming.
Joyce paid tribute to them and in particular to one member of that squad, Moycullen’s Charlie Cox, whose dad David passed last week from cancer.
“We will look out for you Charlie and also Daniel (who was on the Galway U-20 team) because that’s what we do. We look after each other,” added Joyce.
A number of Joyce’s former team-mates who won All-Ireland medals with him in 1998 and 2001, including Michael Donnell and Paul Clancy, greeted him and his players in the tunnel as they departed Pearse Stadium for a function in a city centre hotel.