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Taylor return is a knockout

With her historic third World Lightweight medal gleaming in the lights, Katie Taylor arrived back in Dublin airport yesterday afternoon from the AIBA World Women's Boxing Championships in Barbados to an enthusiastic welcome.

Before the Irish squad came through Customs, there was a brief opportunity to meet with officers of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and Sports Minister Mary Hanafin in a VIP suite.

First through the door was team manager Stephen Connolly followed closely by the formidable Bray sports woman, three times World Champion, Katie Taylor. Behind them came the other Irish boxers, Sinead Kavanagh (Drimnagh), Allana Murphy (Eastside, Belfast) and Ceire Smith (Cavan), coaches Peter Taylor and Zuar Antia and IABA's Director of Boxing Dominic O'Rourke.

Beaming serenely, Katie admitted, "The last two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life."

Tommy Murphy, incoming President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, welcomed the world champion with an impassioned speech.

"Katie, your record will ever be passed. And hopefully you'll add to it next year and, of course, the year after," he said. "When the reporters who've been writing about you all week come to pick their sports person of the year I hope they choose you. You are the most famous lady we've ever had in sport in Ireland."

The IABA veteran acknowledged the performances of the other Irish boxers.

"To the girls who went away, we're very thrilled with you," he declared. "You've now seen what championships are all about."

Thanking Minister Hanafin for being present to welcome the Irish team home, Murphy continued: "We've got a lot of young kids coming up, both boys and girls aged 12 and 13, and sadly it's an area we need to look after to help bring this talent through.

"The boxing medals we've seen in the last few years have come from this area. The Association itself, the coaches from the various clubs, put their hands in their pockets to send their teams away because as an Association we haven't got the money.

"We're not looking for millions Minister, just something to keep the conveyor belt of talent producing champions."

The beleaguered Fianna Fail Minister seemed relieved to have a good news story to celebrate. "It's a great day for Katie, for boxing and for Ireland," she declared. "We're all really proud of her. Your ongoing commitment and dedication, and that of the other girls to compete as well, is smashing.

"To be world champion three times in a row lifts the spirit of the whole nation. When things aren't easy for people, we look for our heroes. And Katie Taylor is our hero now. So well done Katie."

As the party moved into the Arrivals area, Katie's coach, her father Peter Taylor, said: "Because Katie comes back all the time winning, everybody thinks this is easy. But she had a very tough semi-final contest and that shows you how difficult it is.

"The Irish support cheering her on lifted Katie in the final round when she was absolutely exhausted and trailing 16-15 down with thirty seconds to go. She'll have five or six weeks off now away from boxing and maybe play a little bit of football and then start training again for the next eighteen months."

Dominic O'Rourke, Director of Boxing, enthused about the Irish support at Katie's bouts.

"The support we got from Digicel, Denis O'Brien's company, was fantastic. Barry O'Brien, CEO in Barbados, closed down the company to allow the staff to come and support us," said O'Rourke.

"An hour and a half before Katie's final we got a phone call from Denis to say he was offering Katie substantial sponsorship for three years. It gave her a major boost.

"It was great timing, especially after the semi-final being so close."