Thursday 26 April 2018

Katie proves elusive as 'Hurricane' Enda hits the canvass

The photographers, reporters and supporters were crestfallen. A sizeable posse had convened at Bray's DART station in the late afternoon -- ostensibly to welcome the Taoiseach to the sunny Wicklow seafront, but really to hang out with the brilliant Katie Taylor and maybe, if we're all very good, she'll let us have a peek at her shiny World Championship gold medal.

But to the dismay of all concerned, when Enda and his entourage arrived at her astonishingly modest boxing gym at the harbour, only Katie's father/trainer Peter was awaiting him.

It turned out that she hadn't sucker-punched the Taoiseach -- the in-demand Katie was stuck late at a photoshoot for one of her sponsors. "It's a paying gig, that's very important," whispered one insider.

There were aghast staffers imagining lurid 'Katie snubs Enda' headlines instead of the 'Going for gold' ones they had fondly envisioned, gutted photographers who had all but clicked on front-page images of the boxer mock-sparring with the Taoiseach, and sorrowful journalists packing away their boxes of pugilistic puns.

But even a world-class sportswoman -- especially a world-class amateur sportswoman -- has to earn a crust, and so her dad did the honours and showed Enda around the gym which is undergoing a complete refit and was a hubbub of roaring saws and loud hammering.

If Enda was disappointed, he hid it manfully and quizzed Peter about his daughter's preparations for the Olympics.

"She prides herself on being a role model," explained Peter.

"She's a brilliant young woman," agreed Enda.

"And she'd take the head off you," he reckoned.

Then he hopped back into his car and continued on what was -- even by his relentless standards -- a grueller of a schedule. The Taoiseach may lack the ability to land a killer punch while sparring with opponents (hence perhaps his reluctance to climb into the ring for a televised debate on the referendum), but when it comes to long-distance endurance trials, he's indefatigable.

When Enda had arrived in Co Tipperary for his first engagement of the day, he spotted locals picking mushrooms in the fields. It was 4am.

For upon landing back in Dublin after the six-hour talkathon in Brussels on Wednesday night, he hopped into the car and headed straight for Thurles where his first visit of the morning was to the Ursuline school at 8am.

Had he caught a few Zzzs on the plane? "No, I didn't actually," he admitted as he arrived at his second event of the day at 12.45pm, the launch of the Kilkenny Research and Innovation Centre.

As he shook hands with the large crowd gathered at the new centre in St Kieran's College in Kilkenny, a towering shape beside him momentarily blotted out the blazing sunshine. It was the local minister, the lesser-spotted Phil Hogan who has been as vocal in this campaign as Marcel Marceau.

During the speeches, Paul Cuddihy, President of Kilkenny's Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Enda to the Marble City: "Not since Garret FitzGerald have I seen a politician move around the country as fast as you do," he reckoned.

By 3.30pm, Enda was in the Aviva Stadium for a pitchside photoshoot with a selection of sportsmen who are endorsing a Yes vote, including Tony Ward, Barry Geraghty, Denis Hickey, Ken Doherty, Jason Sherlock, Sean Boylan and Michael Carruth.

"The thing I admire about all of these guys is that you've commanded respect for what you do in terms of discipline and teaching conviction, team-work and courage, so whether it's with a ball in the back of the net or on the back of an animal at 40 miles an hour, I admire what you do," he told the footballers, jockeys, snooker players, hurlers and rugby players. Everybody wanted photos with everybody else -- one shot of all the Dubs present, plus Mayoman Enda -- had an interloper. "He's from Cork," shouted one observer pointing to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney who had sidled into the photo.

Just before he left Dublin 4 for Bray, Enda said he was looking forward to meeting Katie Taylor. "She's put women's boxing on the world stage and she's within sight of the ultimate dream," he said.

Alas, that Taylor-made photo opportunity then hit the deck.

But Enda headed for an evening's canvassing in Wexford, New Ross and Waterford before crossing the finish line in Cork late last night -- where, one hopes, he was finally out for the count.

Irish Independent

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