Thursday 26 April 2018

Katie provided the punch and people of Bray had a party they'll never forget

fans in Katie
Taylor's home
town of Bray.
Adoring fans in Katie Taylor's home town of Bray.
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

THE street was a waving, joyous sea of green, white and gold long before Katie entered the ring. All the paraphernalia of national celebration and merriment bought in the hope of the Euros, taken out and dusted off again for this moment of sheer exhilaration and triumph.

It had been worth waiting for.

Outside Bray Town Hall, two little sisters in tricolour hair ribbons and "Katie" written in facepaint across their foreheads had set up a makeshift boxing ring.

"I want to be Katie," shouted one. "You mean Katie Taylor," corrected the other, dancing around, fists aloft.

Their mother looked on with an equal measure of pride and alarm.

The people of Bray had come out in force -- some of those present were elderly and even wheelchair bound but they were adamant that they did not want to miss this moment of their town's history.

Dotted along the Main Street in the middle of a normal working day yesterday were dry cleaners, pubs, shops and jewellers that had pulled down the shutters for a moment far too special to miss.

Holland's pub, meanwhile, was advertising "Lunch with Katie" -- inviting customers to watch the match there.

Two huge screens had been erected either side of the Town Hall to facilitate the congregating masses, who came to watch one of their own take centre stage in the world.

Before long, the gardai were shaking their heads at those arriving late who were attempting to get behind the barriers -- it was no good, it was full, with about 4,000 people packed in.

Some people took to craning their necks in through the windows of the nearby Ardmore pub to view the TV screen there.

Draped in a Tricolour, Louise Shanley (22) from Raheny in Dublin, could not take her eyes off the big screen.

She revealed that she once came up against the might of Katie Taylor herself. But on the soccer pitch, not the boxing ring.

"I often played soccer against her," said Louise. "She was very good at that too -- she was tough and strong."

"I'm really proud to see where she has ended up today."

Build-up over, it was almost time for the match to begin. And when Katie Taylor emerged, the roars of the crowd were almost deafening.

Instantly, she sprang into action, attacking from the outset, with little response from Mayzuna Chorieva, her Tajikistani opponent. There were whoops of relief as she took a 3-1 lead in the first round.

"She can do this," one woman nervously assured another, who claimed she was too nervous to look -- but whose eyes were glued to the screen in any case.

Taylor connected with two strong punches in the second round, extending her lead to 7-3 and the roars and flag fluttering escalated.

With sleek footwork and sure fists, Katie boxed on and finally, with relief from all quarters, it was over. A moment of anticipation and then the final score -- Katie had secured a comfortable 17-9 victory -- and a guarantee of silver.

The crowd went crazy, literally dancing in the streets as the Fields of Athenry -- set off by the crowd in the arena in London -- was taken up by the hoards in Bray.

The Mayor of Bray, Mick Glynn, started up 'three cheers for Katie' before saying that he would see them all again later today in the boxer's home district of Ballywaltrim in the town, when she goes for gold.

Dancing around in a pair of red boxing gloves was little Josh Hennessy (9), who is such a huge fan that he is even going to leave his rugby summer camp early today so that he can watch the match.

"I wouldn't miss it," he said.

Helen McCarthy from the town had brought along grandchildren Gearoid (7), Oisin (6), and Elsha (3), to watch. She knows Katie's mother and father and said the boxer had been "absolutely fantastic".

"She was the only one in the ring -- I didn't see anyone else," she said.

"She has such a lovely way about her. She is very self-contained and very together. I can only see Katie with the gold -- I can't see her doing anything else."

Meanwhile, the ringside action sparked memories of a boxing great for Hilary Mason from Shankill.

"I thought she was like Muhammad Ali," she said, "she is so light on her feet."

She added that she had gladly abandoned her ironing to come out to watch Katie on the big screen. Her husband was out on the golf course but had brought along his radio to listen in.

Shuttle buses have been organised from Bray Dart station and the old Dell site on the Boghall Road, beginning at 3pm, for anyone who wants to go to Ballywaltrim for today's event, with around 7,000 people expected to attend.

Irish Independent

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