independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

She could have been a star in any sport she chose

WHEN Katie Taylor pulled on the green jersey to play for the women's senior international football team there was only one thing on her mind. Boxing.

Her teammates agree the central midfielder could have gone on to soccer greatness, but from day one her sporting goals were clear cut.

No matter how big the tournament -- she sat out a World Cup to focus on her fighting career -- Katie was never going to swap the ring for the pitch.

Olivia O'Toole, Ireland's all-time leading international goal scorer and friend of the Wicklow woman, said that from the first moment she came into the squad she left no one in any doubt.

"I was sitting with her having dinner. It was when the senior players take the younger girls in and we asked her what her ambitions were in life," said Olivia.

"I thought it would be to play for Ireland, but she said she wanted to win an Olympic gold medal at boxing. She was 16. We said it's not an Olympic sport and she said yes, but it will be."

Katie has been involved in football for most of her life. She played for Lourdes Celtic and St James Gate in the Dublin Women's Soccer League and later for Peamount United.

She graduated through the underage international set-up at under-17 and under-19 before breaking into the senior team in 2007 for the World Cup qualifiers.

One of her most memorable moments, and a clear display of her natural ability, came in 2008 when she scored a sensational long shot against Italy.

Screaming

"It was a humdinger, 35 yards out. It went over the goalkeeper's head and she just turned around and smiled," said Olivia.

"If it was anyone else they would be screaming, but she just takes it all in her stride."

When she was crowned world boxing champion in 2006, the then Football Association of Ireland president David Blood said: "There are very few people in the world who have participated so successfully in two sports at the highest level.

"It just goes to show what a remarkable person Katie is."

She could easily revive her football career, but to date she has given no indication of what her plans are, having concentrated so heavily on fighting and capturing Olympic gold.

It is understood that Arsenal -- one of the powerhouses of female club football -- are among those keen to sign her should she retire from boxing and focus full-time on football.

"Boxing always came first, but when she did play for us it was like putting Roy Keane on the pitch -- it was like having two extra players," said Olivia.

"She could have been the next (Brazilian striker) Marta or (leading Olympic goal scorer and US forward) Abby Wambach.

"She could have been a superstar. She could have played for any of the top teams in Europe or America, but it was always boxing. She could have been a swimmer too. Anything she put her hand to, she was great at."

There is talk of Katie retiring from the ring, but only she knows what comes next.

"She can't win anything else. I think she might take five or six months out and then see what she will do," said Olivia. "She can't just laze around -- she's not that type of person."

Irish Independent

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