Monday 19 February 2018

Conor O'Shea: I admire Barry McGuigan (Boxer)

Conor O'Shea

Barry McGuigan's Clones homecoming
Barry McGuigan's Clones homecoming

I could go with any of the great Kerry team of the 1970s and 80s whom I worshipped. Or Tony Ward, who was my rugby idol. I remember getting his autograph as an eight-year-old and thinking life couldn't be any better, but then again Brian O'Driscoll wouldn't be a bad choice either.

Think horse racing and you automatically think of Tony McCoy, golf and it would be Pádraig Harrington with his three Majors. We have had athletes like Eamonn Coghlan, John Treacy and Sonia O'Sullivan, great footballers, like Liam Brady and Johnny Giles, the list and sports are endless.

But as I sit and think over the great nights I have had watching Irish sport, one night sticks out above all the rest - and one individual, Barry McGuigan.

In 1985 he united Ireland and indeed the whole of the British Isles as everyone stopped to watch what the great boxing commentator Harry Carpenter described as the "little man with the big heart" fight for the world title.

It was the night when Loftus Road in South West London became Irish and the memory of Barry McGuigan's father singing Danny Boy still sends shivers down my spine. No one was going to beat Barry McGuigan that night.

McGuigan lost his world title in 1986 to Stevie Cruz in Las Vegas, fighting dehydrated but battling like a warrior and I almost cried listening to it on the radio in the middle of the night down in Kerry.

But it was that night in Loftus Road when he beat the supposedly unbeatable Eusebio Pedrosa that stands out as my great memory, so I will mark him down as the greatest Irish sportsman of the last 50 years. I will probably change my mind tomorrow.

Sunday Independent

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