McGuigan digs deep to celebrate Ali’s Ennis roots

BOXING legend Muhammad Ali’s Ennis relatives yesterday joined with former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan to celebrate Ali’s historic visit to Ennis one year ago.

In the Turnpike area of Ennis yesterday, a commemorative tree was planted by Ennis town mayor, Cllr Tommy Brennan (Ind), and Mr McGuigan, metres from the special plaque erected last year to celebrate Ali’s links to the Turnpike area.

It was in the Turnpike area on September 1 last year where Ali thrilled locals by emerging from his car to go on a walk-about near his ancestral home from which his great-grandfather, Abe Grady, left for the US in the 1860s.

One of the triple World Champion’s Ennis relatives, Mary O’Donovan, was present yesterday and she said: “It is great to keep the atmosphere alive from last year and not to forget the event and what Ali did for the town, the county and Ireland.”

Ms O’Donovan added: “It was magic last year and by doing this now, we are adding an extra bit onto last year and we hope now to keep the ball rolling and keep the excitement. Everyone remembers how exciting it was this day last year.”

More than 100 people turned out yesterday on the Turnpike green to see the ceremony and Mr McGuigan said: “It is incredible to know that Ali has roots here. It is great to be here and I am very proud to be following in the footsteps of the ‘Greatest’.

He quipped: “I always knew that there was a touch of Irish in Ali – he had that type of charisma, that type of passion and sensitivity as well as being an incredible boxer and tremendous puncher.”

Another of Ali’s Ennis relatives, Imelda O’Grady, said: “Last year was unreal. I couldn’t put into words what it was like and how I felt, but it is fantastic that the event is being marked this year and I would hope that it would become an annual event.”

However, Ms O’Grady declined to comment on local historian, Sean Spellissey questioning Ali’s Ennis links earlier this year. Mr Spellissey has instead claimed that Ali’s Clare ancestors more than likely came from the parish of Crusheen – 12km north of Ennis.


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