AS BOXING fever grips the nation, one local restaurant has added a Katie Taylor pizza to their menu while a city boxing club is preparing to roll out the red carpet for the Olympic champion who looks set to pay a visit in the coming weeks.
The boxer, who fulfilled her lifelong dream last Thursday by winning a gold medal for Ireland, is expected to join the Olympic boxing team in Limerick to open the Southside Boxing Academy.
“It would be like winning the lotto. The place would be packed,” said Gerry Barry, president of Southside Boxing Academy which is a new, high performance centre located in the former Fulflex building in Galvone Industrial Estate.
“Everyone is on a buzz, a high. It’s fantastic,” he added.
According to Kieran Ryan, former assistant director of Limerick Regeneration, the club has been given a “firm commitment” by Dominic O’Rourke, the director of boxing with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, that he will bring the Olympic boxing team to Limerick to formerly open the boxing academy.
The visit is expected to take place in September or early October.
Members of the academy which was formerly known as Southill Boxing Club, shared in the euphoria which swept the country at 5pm on Thursday afternoon.
But, like Katie, the club – which has 60 members - has had to overcome obstacles on their path to success, and continue to do so.
“It’s a bit like Katie Taylor’s unit in Bray - there is only one toilet in the unit,” continued Mr Ryan who is also a current committee member of the Southside Boxing Academy.
“The plumbing is there, we just need the capital grant to make the rest of it happen”.
When completed, the academy, which is currently in phase one of a long term project, will be of the same standard as the high performance unit in Dublin.
Coaches from the high performance unit will be based in the Limerick centre. The end result is that boxers in Munster will no longer have to travel to Dublin for their high performance training.
The hope is that Limerick City Council will follow through on the promises made by the former chief executive of the Regeneration Agencies, Brendan Kenny, to purchase the full building which is to become a municipal centre for sport in Limerick.
“The money hasn’t surfaced yet because of the transition between the Regeneration Agencies and Limerick City Council but we are hopeful that Limerick City Council will honour the promises made by Brendan Kenny,” said Mr Ryan.
“From what we can gather, Oliver O’Loughlin [director of services with Limerick City Council who is now overseeing the Regeneration project] is supportive of the purchase of the building,” he added.
The IABA director of boxing, Dominic O’Rourke, has made several trips to Limerick to help progress the project.
Funding totalling €10,000 has already been secured from the Shane Geoghegan Trust to purchase a full size international ring for the unit along with other equipment.
Boxers like Katie Taylor, Mr Ryan said, “don’t fall to the earth as Olympians. They all come through from their clubs at under-age level and then through the high performance unit in Dublin.”
“There is a quote by Sebastian Coe from 2007 and that is that sport is society’s hidden social worker. What I have been trying to do is engage kids in sport, get them back into education and keep them out of trouble. That is what boxing does, in bucket loads.”
One of the fortunate few Limerick people who managed to get their hands on the golden ticket for Katie Taylor’s historic fight was Anna Moore.
The Ballysimon woman has played an instrumental part in Katie’s success to date in her role as manager of the Irish women’s boxing team.
Ms Moore was one of the first to congratulate the Bray woman on her unforgettable victory in the ExCel Arena on Thursday.
“They told us we wouldn’t get near her but I did, I got near her,” said Ms Moore.” I got a hug. And when she came over to me she said: “Anna, Sofya was looking for you”.
Ms Moore has also worked closely in the past with Katie’s opponent Sofya Ochigava.
“I saw Sofya being interviewed and when she was finished, she ran back to me and she gave me a hug. I said: ‘hard luck Sofya’ and she said: ‘no Anna, I won.’ She actually thought she had won, this was after the medal ceremony.”
Many have criticised the Russian’s behaviour on the podium during the medal presentation. Her body language, particularly her folded arms, have prompted analysts to say she was sulking and it was a case of sour grapes on her part.
“I do know when we were in China after the world championships she was the same – sulking on the podium,” Ms Moore recalled. “She thought she had won, but what you have to realise is that she has done exactly the same training as Katie has done. It is very tough,” added Ms Moore who is treasurer of St Francis Boxing Club in the city, secretary of Limerick County Board, treasurer of the Munster Council and also a delegate to Dublin.
Katie’s ritual before a fight, Ms Moore said is to read the Bible.
“They are a very religious family. She will read the Bible and she always wears a t-shirt before she goes into the ring and it says: “My strength comes from God”. She is very, very mentally prepared and she is very focused. She zones in,” she explained.
The atmosphere inside the ExCel Arena, Ms Moore described as “just brilliant”.
“I knew it was going to be tight because with Sofya it has always been tight. Always with Sofya and Katie, it is a psychological battle. The atmosphere was just brilliant. Steve Redgrave was there and Sonia O’Sullivan and a lot of English gold medallists. They were all cheering for Katie.”
PJ O’Halloran who has trained members of St Munchin’s Boxing Club in Thomondgate said Katie’s victory is “an inspiration to us all”.
“She has proved to every person in this country that the girls can do it too. I always say to them, it’s all about dedication, putting your heart and soul into it. If you want to go places in life, you have to dedicate yourself. Keith Earls has proven that as well down through the years,” said Mr O’Halloran who, in 1985, won his first junior national title in Dublin. The Limerickman was senior champion in 1987 and was due to go on to represent Ireland in the Olympic Games in 1988 but was beaten in the final of the senior championship by none other than Wayne McCullough who went on to win a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics.
“In 1988 our swimmers were sent to Lanzarote and our boxing team was sent to the a**hole of Kerry to a big field. That was the difference of how boxing was back then,” he pointed out.
While many watched the momentous occasion on a big screen in a pub or in a sports club, Mr O’Halloran stayed at home, on his own.
He may be a tough fighter but he’s not afraid to shed a tear or two and to admit it, publicly.
“I like to cry after it, win or lose. In my eyes they are all very special, all the athletes, winners and losers. Every athlete out there is fighting for people like ourselves in the small communities, and all the unsung heroes that never get the credit they deserve.”
And while very few will, in their life-time, taste Olympic glory like Katie, one Limerick restaurateur is offering diners a slice of her success.
Antonio Mureddu of the newly opened Casa Nostra Ristorante at Mount Kennett Place, has designed the ‘Katie Taylor pizza’ which features the tricolour made out of toppings.
“We used rocket for the green, cheese for the white and carrot for the gold. We put Katie Taylor on with Balsamic sauce. Everything is 100 per cent authentic Italian. It’s very, very nice,” said the Sardinian who has been living in Ireland since 2006.
“We want to celebrate with the Irish community,” he added.