No shortcuts on Katie’s Olympic rings road

Before her fight this morning she would have read the same Bible verses and listened to the same Christian songs on her iPod

I’ve only ever picked up a couple of penalty points on my driving license.

And those two were rightfully earned on the way to meet Katie Taylor in Dublin one summer morning before her last World Championships trip to Barbados.

One arrives on time for a date with a girl who, you know, can batter you.

Looking back, I’m sure if I had explained to the garda just ‘what my rush was’, he might have folded away his smoking speed gun, turned on his blue heels, trotted back to his bike and escorted me — sirens singing — over the Red Cow interchange and down Dublin’s South Circular Road.

It’s there, in the National Stadium of course, that the Bray woman builds up the points you see her accumulating in the ring in China this week. Those fights are won far from the spotlights and RTÉ microphones, she told me then.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice as they apparently say in New York City. The same is true of the impressive little high-performance gym, which hunkers down next to the stadium itself.

It’s an unassuming, honest, little hub of activity which has produced countless fighters who’ve climbed out of rings around the globe having enhanced Irish boxing’s name yet more.

I pushed open the door having arrived in a pair of shorts, an AC-DC T-shirt and a Fiesta, rather than on the back of any training, admittedly.

Four blue rings are tucked in, side-by-side, running towards a well-used weights room at the rear of the low-ceilinged space. The cinder block walls are painted with pastel colours and someone has deliberately tagged them with inspirational phrases.

“Don’t follow your dreams —– chase them” one reads, and you wonder if it seeps in after a while, if you hang around here long enough.

The names of past warriors make up a little roll of honour: Egan, Carruth, McCullough and Sutherland remind you of the footsteps in which your bobbing and weaving. Taylor is at home in their company.

“We usually never train with the radio here. I don’t know why that is. In my own club we have the radio on,” Taylor, a Paolo Nutini fan, told me, “but it could be anything — I could be sparring to politics or something.”

A Dictaphone between us, we spoke, sitting on a weights bench at the back of the hall. When she was awarded a walkover on Wednesday in China, because of a neck injury to her prospective opponent, her spot in the Olympics was at last assured.

Rather than focus on the work she and those around her put in, as well as her undoubted talent, she explained that God had been good to her. Before her fight this morning she would have read the same Bible verses and listened to the same Christian songs on her iPod, she told me that morning.

I need a bit more than that to get me going before a fight, I admitted. But then I’m not a world champion.

I free-wheeled back to the office in Cork that afternoon with a piece that looked a lot different to that with which we had expected.

Beforehand, we were told I’d be allowed to clamber through the ropes and take my chances with Taylor over one round. I warned them about my right-hand candy cane and workmanlike combinations, but they seemed okay with it.

Not for the first time in my life, however, when I stuck my head around the door, they’d never heard of me and weren’t expecting to fight. Someone forgot to tell someone.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Katie’s trainer and corner man during her fights and post-bout interviews? Peter, her dad, is someone with whom you agree with when he suggests something.

Particularly if that something is getting into a boxing ring and punching his daughter.

I could have been a contender. But her dad wouldn’t let me, as Brando almost said.


Twitter: @adrianrusselll

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