Saturday 21 October 2017

Even in defeat, McGregor is a champion to his legion of fans

Conor McGregor attends his after fight party and his Wynn Nightlife residency debut at the Encore Beach Club at Night at Wynn Las Vegas on August 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Nightlife
Conor McGregor attends his after fight party and his Wynn Nightlife residency debut at the Encore Beach Club at Night at Wynn Las Vegas on August 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Nightlife
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

He may have lost his much-hyped bout with Floyd Mayweather, but to his many hometown fans Conor McGregor will always be a winner.

The UFC mixed martial artist from Crumlin took on the unbeaten American boxing legend in his first ever professional boxing match in Las Vegas, and had millions of viewers around the world glued to their TV screens.

Although Mayweather maintained his unbeaten streak - now at 50-0 - after McGregor suffered a technical knock-out in the 10th round, the Irish fighter is believed to have walked away with an estimated $100m (€84m) and his dignity intact.

And nowhere was the sense of hometown pride more obvious than his local watering hole, The Black Forge Inn in Walkinstown, near McGregor's childhood home in Crumlin.

Publican Liam Flynn said the late night pub where McGregor occasionally pops in for a 7Up was packed to the rafters on Saturday night/Sunday morning as fans, friends and neighbours of 'The Notorious' cheered him on ahead of yesterday's 5am bout.

Among them was Christine and Chris Keogh. The couple from Walkinstown in Dublin stayed up until the small hours to watch the spectacle.

Imelda May sings the national anthem of Ireland prior to the super welterweight boxing match on August 26, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Imelda May sings the national anthem of Ireland prior to the super welterweight boxing match on August 26, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

They weren't disappointed, even though McGregor succumbed to the unbeaten boxer's blows.

"I thought the only thing that stopped him from going the full distance was he just ran out of stamina," he said.

"I don't think that Mayweather hurt him at all, and I think that there was a distinct possibility that if he had a bit more training in boxing, he would have gone the whole way," he said.

He said the locals were immensely proud of McGregor - who, like himself, worked as a plumber before he became a household name around the globe.

Floyd Mayweather Jr, right, and Conor McGregor during the post fight press conference. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Floyd Mayweather Jr, right, and Conor McGregor during the post fight press conference. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"He used to work with a guy who works with me. He's kind of one of our own. He just makes a bit more than most plumbers now," he joked.

Excited

His wife Christine said she also got caught up in McGregor-mania. "I was really excited for the whole week just waiting on it," she said. "When the time came, I enjoyed every minute."

Mr Flynn, meanwhile, said the pub was heaving with around 250 McGregor fans - minus the several hundred local loyal supporters who flew to Vegas to cheer McGregor on in person.

Actress Charlize Theron. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Actress Charlize Theron. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"They just couldn't believe that one of their own - a fellow local lad from Crumlin - could be in a boxing ring over in Vegas with one of the greatest fighters of all time, a legend, Mayweather," he said.

"And to stay in the ring for 10 rounds was fabulous for him.

"He actually won that fight when he stepped into the ring because [for] one of our own guys to appear in that ring, that was amazing.

"Conor is a genius. To even get into that situation alone was a mastercraft. He's a lovely lad as well. They all love him."

Aaron Fitzgerald (24), who lives near McGregor's old childhood home, said he had no problem staying up to watch the fight with his cousin Ian Merriman (39) and friends who festooned the house with the Tricolour to show their support.

Liam Flynn, owner of the Black Forge Inn with Christine and Chris Keogh. Photo: Arthur Carron
Liam Flynn, owner of the Black Forge Inn with Christine and Chris Keogh. Photo: Arthur Carron

"Fair play to him for staying the 10 rounds. I was hoping he was going to do it, but it didn't go that way," he said. "But we were pulling for him. But it is what it is."

Meanwhile, singer Imelda May, who sang 'Amhrán na bhFiann' in Las Vegas, apologised to fans for having to cancel a festival gig at the last minute.

"I simply felt duty called... I was asked to represent my country at the biggest sporting event in our small island's history. I was very honoured and so proud to sing our national anthem to the world," she said.

"I sincerely thank the amazing Conor McGregor for asking me to be part of his special, unbelievable evening. He won our hearts last night. I thank all of you for your support as I was nervous as hell until I started singing and then felt all your good vibes with me."

Meanwhile, around 100 people stayed up late or got up early to watch the match at the Crumlin Boxing Club, where McGregor first donned gloves as a child. His former coach Phil Sutcliffe said he was "exceptional".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News