Sunday 24 September 2017

WATCH: Olympic boxer Michael Carruth recounts Barcelona Gold and booming Croke Park reception

Ryan Nugent

Olympic champion Michael Carruth will sit down to watch his winning fight on Monday morning - 25 years to the day from "bouncing around like a gymnast in pain" after taking boxing gold.

Sticking on the tape on August 8 every year, was a tradition his father and coach, Austin would carry until he passed away in 2011 - but on the milestone of Barcelona 1992, Carruth insists he won't be able to resist.

He might even turn it up loud to hear Jimmy Magee gauge the feeling back home during the fight, "Drimnagh, Dublin, Ireland must be going mad, a quarter of a minute to go" or the chants of "you'll never beat the Irish" echoeing around the arena.

It's followed swiftly by Magee shouting "Michael Carruth is the champion, the champion, the champion," though his dad was more intent on analysing each year.

"I'll watch it yeah, I don't get that phone call that I used to get every year on August 8 at about 10 past 11, my dad would watch the fight. He watched it in slow motion once, it took him three hours to watch it and he said 'you know, you won that fight', I'd say 'I know' and he'd say 'I counted the shots and you definitely won that fight' and I'd say 'I know Ozzy," he said.

"Rather than him ringing me, I'll probably go to see him in Palmerstown graveyard, him and my mam, and thank them for helping me," he added.

The iconic, leaping celebration from that faithful day is the one that's embedded in the memory of thousands of Irish people, and while everything else was ritual for the then soldier, this certainly wasn't planned.

"I had said when I was lying in my bed, that if I won, I'd bless myself, but when my hand went up...I just went absolutely ballistic, because at seven years old, to turn around to my dad and say listen 'I'm gonna win the Olympic Games,' he told me to make him a promise, and I made him a promise that I was going to win the Olympic Games," he said.

"All of a sudden, to come back after that celebration, jumping all around, I'd enough cop on to stop it, shake my opponents hand and I went over to him (his dad) and hugged him, and he said thanks for keeping the promise."

 National hysteria followed, open top bus parades, television appearances, phone calls to the house from the Taoiseach, the President...even Bono.

The celebrity status was instant, thankfully he had his triplet brothers to give a hand, particularly when he was going to Croke Park for the All Ireland Final.

“I was guest of honour in the Hogan Stand, and I asked my agent, what do I have to wear to this? He said you have to wear a shirt and tie Michael, so I said ‘if I bring my jeans and top, any chance they might be able to slip me onto the Hill?

“I said to this guy, ‘can you get me on to the Hill? He said absolutely, but you’ll have to go across the pitch.

“When the Hill saw me coming across in my jeans and runners, I’ve never got, and never will get an applause like that,” he added.

 Though leaving the stadium proved a bit more challenging, as the boxer got mobbed by supporters.

“We were walking up Dorset Street, trying to get the bus back to Walkinstown and every third person that got (a photo of) me, got the real person and everyone else got Martin or William...we wouldn’t have got up the road,” he said.

 Some 25 years later Carruth is still in the game, working as an elite coach - and is sure the Rio Olympics last year was merely a blip.

 "We will come back, don't think we're going to go away that quietly, we're gonna come back in Tokyo."

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