Monday 22 January 2018

Video: Muhammad Ali fell in love with Irish whiskey, hurling and the people after fighting in Croke Park

Paul McGrath has never lost his endearing side and gave Muhammad Ali a special welcome when the boxing legend visited a charity dinner last year
Paul McGrath has never lost his endearing side and gave Muhammad Ali a special welcome when the boxing legend visited a charity dinner last year
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

For those old enough to remember, July 19th 1972 and the days preceding it was a truly special time in Ireland - for that is when a legend graced us with his presence.

The arrival in Dublin of Muhammad Ali in his prime - with all his wit, charm and astonishing in-ring skill - for a fight in Croke Park with Al Lewis was one of the most special moments in Irish sporting - and cultural - history.

His magnetism was obvious when he sat down for an interview on Irish television, as he passionately spoke about the similarities between the civil rights process in America and the struggle of the Irish, while also extolling the virtues of Ireland's whiskey, scenery and sports.

Read more: Muhammad Ali, who riveted the world as 'The Greatest', dies aged 74  

If people didn't already love the boxer, his time on our TV screens sealed it.

But what made Ali's visit to Ireland truly special was just how accessible he was. He wasn't like celebrities today - cocooned from reality as they shop in a closed-off Brown Thomas flanked by an army of minders.

Read more: One of Muhammad Ali's last tweets was to wish Bono a happy birthday 

Ali mingled with people and it made an impression every bit as great as his deconstruction of Lewis in the ring fixed on the Croke Park turf.

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Muhammad Ali -vs- Al 'Blue' Lewis Fight:. Muhammad Ali at a press conference at Dublin Airport. circa July 1972. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection). 772. 479. (Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images)
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Muhammad Ali during training on 10 July 1972 for his fight with Al 'Blue' Lewis held at Croke Park in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. (Photo by Don Morley/Getty Images)
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Sport, Boxing, Heavyweight Bout at Croke Park, Dublin, pic: 19th July 1972, Muhammad Ali stopped Al "Blue" Lewis in 11 rounds, Muhammad Ali, left, having floored Al "Blue" Lewis in the 5th round, Lewis staying down for a count of eight (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

That wasn't the last time Ali came to Dublin either - a bond had been formed with Ireland and he returned in 2009. By then, Parkinson's disease had robbed the charismatic champion of his speech and movement, but people still lit up in his presence. Muhammad Ali has now left us but Ireland will always remember the impact he made here.

http://migration-ece4.independent.ie:8085/migrator/ws/publication/independentDublin/resource/binary/707470
Paul McGrath has never lost his endearing side and gave Muhammad Ali a special welcome when the boxing legend visited a charity dinner last year

 

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