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Conor McGregor may talk the talk but he walks the walk too

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Conor McGregor limbering up at an open session ahead of his fight against Dennis Silver in Boston

Conor McGregor limbering up at an open session ahead of his fight against Dennis Silver in Boston

SPORTSFILE

Conor McGregor limbering up at an open session ahead of his fight against Dennis Silver in Boston

His personality is as subtle as a bottle flung against a fireplace, so liking Conor McGregor isn't exactly an instant compute.

He doesn't talk about the job he does so much as toss out homilies to his greatness. He dresses to be noticed, wearing his ego like a badge. He curses, he bad-mouths, he prophesizes pain for opponents.

The enemy in Boston tomorrow, Dennis Siver, has already been dismissed to a TV audience as "a midget, German steroid head". It's hardly the conventional way into an Irish heart, is it?

McGregor is like a very hard core version of Steve Collins coming home during the late eighties from the coarse, pitiless world of Boston undercards to an audience ill-equipped to understand his way of talking, let alone process it.

For much of his career, Collins had been invisible to his own people. He boxed for beans in America, working as an electrician on construction sites just to keep a roof over his young family's head. The experience taught him never to sell himself short.

McGregor? He was a plumber on job-seeker's allowance until signed up, two years ago, to the UFC. Today, he is one victory from a world title shot.

When the big-time eventually came Collins's way with his '95 tilt at Chris Eubank's WBO Super-Middleweight crown, he turned the build-up into pantomime. He met the champion's trademark uniform of Armani suit, monocle and cane with a tweed jacket, dickie bow, flat cap and blackthorn stick of his own.

He faced down the braggart with a repertoire so brazen, so blithely confrontational, Eubank might as well have been left sitting before the world in a ball gown. Collins, famously, fostered an air of invincibility around his challenge, spooking the champion with an insinuation of hypnosis. "I'm going to kill you" he roared at Eubank as they touched gloves before that fight in Millstreet.

Afterwards, the belt around his waist, he described himself as "not just the best Irish boxer ever, but the best pound for pound fighter in the world".

We didn't quite know what to make of him did we? We'd felt more comfortable with Barry McGuigan's practiced deference towards "Mr. Eastwood", a ritual so wickedly parodied after. We preferred humility in our heroes, you see.

The irony, I suspect, is that Collins yearned for the approval of his own people more than he ever craved fame and fortune. The night he fought Chris Pyatt for the WBO Middleweight crown in Sheffield, he objected to the Irish tricolor being carried to the ring by a scantily-clad model.

He would be unfailingly helpful to the Irish media. I went and called un-announced to his London hotel just three days before he boxed Frederic Seillier in '97, yet got a two-hour interview in his room. Collins had a generosity not everyone could see.

He would defend his crown seven times, retiring undefeated as world champion. That makes him our greatest professional boxer, yet the public saw only the bravado, presuming it, mistakenly, to be the essence of the man.

So we can but wonder about McGregor now. How much of that super-charged arrogance is real and how much is brazen marketing?

On Wednesday, having signed a deal with Reebok, he tweeted his congratulations to the company on "netting the biggest signature in the game."

Just four bouts into his UFC career, he is already a luminous star. He packed the O2 Arena in Dublin last July for an early stoppage of Brazilian, Diego Brandao, proclaiming afterwards that the Irish weren't there to take part in UFC, "but to take over". Now he tops a Boston bill that will feature three of his compatriots.

His face, it seems, is everywhere in the city, on billboards, buses and taxis. American TV can't get enough of him.

Siver, who failed a drug test in April, is considered a 10/1 shot to beat him, McGregor predicting that the German will be dispensed with in two minutes. "I don't give a f..k about Dennis Siver," he says.

The plan is to fill Croke Park for a title fight this summer and, given the following he is accumulating, that might be more than a fanciful pipedream. Still, this week's comedy of a Fine Gael senator switching, in a matter of hours, from looking to outlaw Mixed Martial Arts to announcing that she would, instead, be trying her hand at it spoke of the distance he must still travel to be understood here.

Yet, I suspect that McGregor isn't entirely bothered. His star is in the ascendant now, with or without us.

'The Notorious' is just that.

Doyle's fall from grace a strange mystery

Kevin Doyle does not exist, his career was just a rumour.

Go to the official website of his supposed employers, Wolves, and that's the only logical conclusion to be drawn. Profiles of 39 players to be found, enough to field three teams with substitutes, but no mention of the Wexford man (right).

Where on earth is he? Media reported this week that Doyle returned to Wolves after a loan spell at Crystal Palace, but have they photographic evidence?

The records tell us that he is just 31, not yet in need of having his food mashed then.

They say he's played 61 times for Ireland, scoring 14 goals, not exactly the figures you'd associate with marginality in the second tier of English football. But Wolves boss Kenny Jackett made clear at the start of the season that Doyle was not in his plans. Why?

Well that's what's difficult to fathom. He's always been regarded as a wonderful professional who comes across as clean living, respectful, intelligent.

So what on earth happened him?

Two years ago, the likes of Arsenal and Everton were said to be considering him as an expensive recruit. A year ago, he was said to be on the brink of signing for Celtic.

But now Kevin Doyle finds himself lost in the small-print of a club striving to break into the Championship play-off places. You would think he would be a diamond option for Jackett at that level, but instead he appears to have become the club's invisible man.

I don't get it. Was his career until now just some grand hallucination of Irish minds? Was he no more real than Bobby Ewing in the shower?

Where on earth is Kevin Doyle? The country has a right to know.

The story that makes dieticians swallow hard

One of the most comical portraits of modern GAA guilt is painted by Declan Bogue in his wonderful book, 'This is Our Year'.

It is of three Donegal footballers sitting in a car in Letterkenny just 48 hours after the 2011 Ulster final, each devouring a family bucket of fried chicken. After all the ascetic living that had carried them to their county's first provincial crown in nineteen seasons, their bodies craved a breakout.

So, under cover of darkness, twenty pieces of the Colonel's finest. Each.

There were just two weeks to their All-Ireland quarter-final, but the committing of that dietary crime was simply "bliss" to Kevin Cassidy (left) and the McGee brothers.

Heaven knows if that image was one of the triggers for Jim McGuinness's rather irrational reaction to the book's publication.

But it did convey the depth of craving a county man will encounter mid-Championship and the broadness of our assumption that he will reject it.

GAA players may not exactly be "indentured slaves", but they do live absurdly un-natural lives for amateur sports people. Why? Because, even in that absurdity, the life still carries extraordinary appeal.

Cassidy, incidentally, kicked the winning point against Kildare two weeks later - in extra-time.

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