By Larry Ryan
I bet there is a tear in your eye...
David O’Leary, meet Almonte Martinez, the lady who has taken your record for sucking the breath from a nation.
If Davo took an age to step up to that penalty in Genoa, the referee from the Dominican Republic stood in the centre of a ring in London’s docklands and held the hands of two tenacious women for an eternity.
We didn’t know. Nobody seemed to. Not Katie. And not Jimmy.
“If you weren’t supporting the Irish, you’d almost have to say the Russian deserves…” Jimmy couldn’t go any further. Even he finds it hard to talk without oxygen.
Could the BBC help us?
They have been kind to us this past fortnight, our neighbours. Ron McIntosh felt our distress and wanted badly to fill our lungs again. “There can be no doubt the woman who is the best boxer in the world has done enough.”
But nobody really knew.
Finally, when the woman called Almonte, she say yes, Jimmy harvested a rich crop of adjectives. “Fabulous Katie. Wonderful Katie Taylor. Tremendous Taylor.
“What an Olympian. What achampion.”
The day before, with silver banked, Jimmy had assured those people of Bray who never look south that there was another stop on the dart line. When this train pulled in, Bernard Dunne was beaming at the platform. “She never lost composure. She never went outside her game plan. She never derailed.”
Kenny Egan, who knows the pain of the long wait better than most, sounded like a man who felt any of his own regrets melt away.
“I’m so proud of her. In this small country, we just keep knocking out legends. I came close, but this feeling I have now for Katie is overwhelming.”
Mick Dowling, a hard man to knock, looked and sounded floored. “I’m exhausted, I’m relieved. I’m so, so happy. It’s been the dream of a lot of us that she would do this. It was so, so cagey.”
In truth, the pulse of a nation had rarely dropped all afternoon. Nerves gripped early.
Maybe it’s because we’ve rarely wanted something as badly for one of our own, with scarcely an ounce of the begrudgery about that you ordinarily find lurking on these kinds of occasion. To begrudge Katie would be to draw on the foulest instincts of human nature.
As Jimmy put it: “Sofya Ochigava is in the armed forces of her country. Katie Taylor is in the bosom of the Irish nation.”
So tough men had been weakening. Before the first bell, Egan had told us he was “shaking inside. “I’m screaming inside. I’m more nervous than four years ago.”
Jedward arrived to try and draw the begrudgery out us. Then a pantheon of well-wishers. Drico, Quinny, Shay, Cody even.
Inside the ExCeL, amid a tumultuous explosion of pride and patriotism, you couldn’t help worry that Katie didn’t quite carry that look of serenity she has on other days. Was she as nervous as the rest of us?
Behind at half time, her Dad was serving as cornerman for an entire country. “All right, relax. Everything is going great.” Jimmy made a meal of it. “Listening to her father like she has since she was a little girl. This time, it’s more than eat up your dinner.”
We should all have listened. By the end of the third round turnabout, those frowns we took as nerves looked more like focus.
But still we fretted to the final bell and beyond, even if Jimmy had hailed what might be Katie’s single greatest asset as a fighter, certainly when it comes to ducking punches.
“A modest young lady, her head the same size as it was when she was a child.”
Once we could breathe again, Marty Morrissey talked to our new champion about the “outpouring of love and affection I haven’t seen many times”.
But the woman who has made her sport fashionable wanted to go down a route that has become a little unfashionable. She wanted to talk about her faith. “I want to thank everyone for all the prayers. I’m here because of the grace of God. Thank you Jesus for such a great victory today.”
The defeated soldier from Russia looked a little churlish with her arms folded during Amhrán na bhFiann. But Jimmy only had leaking eyes for Katie.
“As long as young people train with dedication, tenacity and aspiration, the name of Katie Taylor will be remembered with affection. Gold is precious and so is its current wearer. I bet there’s a tear in your eye, wherever you’re watching this. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Not one thing.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reservedHome