Thursday 27 November 2014

Medal fame won't change girl-next-door, say neighbours

Published 09/08/2012 | 05:00

KATIE Taylor's family home is one of the few on her street that isn't festooned with Tricolours, bunting and posters urging her to go for gold today.

But friends, neighbours and acquaintances of the lightweight Olympic boxer in her hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow, say that's not the least bit surprising.

Her father Peter, an electrician and former boxer, her mother Bridget and siblings Peter, Lee and Sarah, are all quiet, hardworking people who shun the spotlight, they say.

"She's an ordinary girl with no airs or graces. She's a very friendly girl," said Tracey O'Toole, who lives in the Wolfe Tone estate where Katie lived as a child before her family moved to the Ballywaltrim area, where they currently reside.

Her aunt and grandmother still live there and Katie is often seen in the estate, kicking a football with her nephews, she said.

But even though older residents of the estate remember her as a kid who loved football and sports, she showed a special quality from an early age, Ms O'Toole added. "She was always going to go places. She had great drive in her," she said.

Neighbour Philip O'Brien, (62), whose front garden, looking on to the Taylor's modest two-storey house, is adorned with Irish flags and posters of Katie, has watched her grow up.

He, like most of her neighbours, thinks of her as a cherished member of their own families.

"She's a little princess, that's what she is," he said. "She always was."

Despite her exceptional achievements, Katie is still the down-to-earth girl-next-door, he said.

"You just see her walking the dog out there," he said pointing to the green across the street.

" 'I'm the world champion' -- that doesn't come into it," he said. "She just walks on."

Family friend Sheila Murphy lives down the road from the gym at Bray harbour where Katie began boxing at the age of 15 and where she still trains.

She used to kick a football around with Katie's mother herself and her brother, John Murphy, is a good friend of Katie's father.

Both of them know just how hard Katie has worked and how much she has sacrificed.

"We know what she's given up in her life and we know what Bridget and Pete have given up and they really have put their heart and souls and their lives into the whole thing."

"When we used to be up and down the seafront having a great time, Katie would be running or would pass you with the runners on her. She's given up everything," she said. "This has been the dream of her life."

Ms Murphy, her sons Michael (16) and Sean (12) and their friend Liam McCarthy (12) are among more than a hundred friends, family and supporters from Bray who flew out yesterday and today to London to cheer Katie on.

And even if she doesn't bring back a gold medal, she will always be a hero in Michael Kelly's eyes.

"She would be an idol to every Irish person," he said.

Irish Independent

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