Wednesday 17 July 2019

A hero's welcome home for Katie

Katie Taylor celebrates with her mother Bridget and sister Sarah immediately after the fight
Katie Taylor celebrates with her mother Bridget and sister Sarah immediately after the fight

Mary Fogarty

A homecoming celebration for undisputed world lightweight boxing champion Katie Taylor will take place at the Bandstand in Bray on Friday evening, June 7, from 7 p.m., organised by Wicklow County Council.

The sporting hero is no stranger by now to being greeted by a jubilant crowd at Dublin airport.

A large number of fans gathered in the arrivals hall of Terminal 2 yesterday (Tuesday) morning, to welcome Katie she walked through the doors bruised but far from broken.

She had defeated Belgian Delfine Persoon in New York, adding WBC and Ring Magazine straps to her IBF, WBA and WBO belts, unifying all lightweight titles and making history.

The Bray woman was exhausted but characteristically gracious, posing for photographs and signing autographs for fans of all ages. There was an electric atmosphere at the reception.

'It's been an incredible journey and there's a lot of people supporting me throughout all those years,' said Taylor, speaking at the airport. 'And to be holding all these belts now, undisputed champion, the pinnacle of the sport - this is an absolute dream.'

She has her eyes on a re-match, but in the short-term looks forward now to putting her feet up and spending time with family, after six months in training in Connecticut.

President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to the athlete. 'My warmest congratulations to Katie Taylor on reaching the pinnacle of achievement in her sport, becoming the undisputed lightweight world champion,' Mr Higgins wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning. Her fellow Bray sports star Darren Randolph had also sent a message wishing her luck in advance of the bout.

Cllr Joe Behan will propose a statue in Katie's honour, when Wicklow County Council meets on Friday, while Deputy John Brady has also suggested re-naming of Ballywaltrim Recreation Park or the Southern Cross Road.

Katie herself said yesterday at the airport that she is unsure about the idea of a statue. 'You're only supposed to get a statue when you're dead isn't that right?' She laughed when questioned by the press after touching down yesterday. 'I'm not sure how I feel about that, but the support I've received from the whole country has been absolutely phenomenal.

'The one piece of advice I'd give anyone is if you're passionate about something just go for it with all your heart. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't be something or you can't do something. Just go for it. Anything is possible if you're willing to work hard,' said the champ.

'Many people would like to see a statue erected to Katie in honour of all her achievements throughout her career,' said Cllr Behan. 'That's personally something I would support... I'm sure my colleagues will agree to it because it would be nice to have something permanent here to celebrate a magnificent sportswoman, a magnificent role model.'

Deputy Brady said Taylor is 'the greatest Irish sports-person of all time' and that her massive achievement deserves to be honoured and recognised in a fitting way and that a number of measures should be given consideration.

'In the past Katie has been granted the freedom of County Wicklow, Daniel Day Lewis is the only other person to hold this accolade. Numerous civic receptions have also been held to honour her many achievements. In 2013 I also proposed a special "Katie Taylor Sports Scholarship". This is now in place and is run every year by Wicklow County Council and is awarded to a young Wicklow sports-person to help them excel at their sport.'

He has contacted the council and asked them to look at a number of things that should be done, including the erection of a statue, renaming of a road, and renaming of Ballywaltrim Recreational Park to 'Katie Taylor Recreational Park'. He said that Katie would have trained in the park, which is central to her community of Ballywaltrim. Her 2012 London Olympic final was also shown on big screens to thousands of supporters in the park.

Wicklow People