IN THE butchers, public houses, schools and grocery stores, there was only one topic of conversation in Castleconnell this week – the crowning of a world champion who was reared in these parts.
Andy Lee moved from London to a red-brick, two-storey house around the corner from Daly’s Cross at the age of 12.
Frank Lee of Daly’s Cross service station has known known him ever since.
“I’m thrilled for him,” he remarked this Tuesday as customers filed through the doors to pay for their petrol and chat about the homecoming of the village’s famous son.
“It’s great to see him get the recognition he deserves. Everyone is delighted for him because he is a lovely guy. He put a lot of work into it. He had a couple of disappointments through the years but now he is the man and it’s great to see it. It’s great for the area.”
Outside Shannon Stores in the centre of the village, which is run by Frank’s brother George, three locals were having the chat just after midday.
Danny Hayes was thrilled to see “one of the nicest fellas you could meet” get his just reward.
“He’s a brilliant boxer – best in the world now isn’t he?” he said, quite matter-of-factly.
“I knew he was going to win it.”
Jenny Bourke was just after getting her hair done - there was a world champion coming home after all and she was determined that she was going to be looking her best for the homecoming.
“It’s brilliant. Andy is a nice down-to-earth guy so it’s great to see someone from Limerick doing us proud on the world stage. To be crowned world champion is some achievement – he is one of our own and we are very proud.”
Frankie Ryan “couldn’t’ be happier” for Andy, even Bobby his dog had an extra spring in his paws.
“I’m delighted for him. To be fair to him he is after having it hard for the last few years. He is 30 now so it was great to see him getting another go and winning it. He’s a lovely lad.”
Behind the counter in McDermott’s butchers, Tony the proprietor, was busy preparing the Christmas turkey and ham.
“Persistence pays off. He kept at it until he got it and fair play to him. It couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. His parents and sister are lovely people. It’s great for Limerick and Castleconnell. He is a proud Limerickman and has a great following around here. Everyone is talking about it.
“The first thing they ask about it turkey or ham and then it’s all about Andy.”
Sitting down beside the stove in the Ramble Inn, John Travers was enjoying his pint of plain and the quiet satisfaction that he knows a world champion boxer. “The last time I met Andy was about a year and a half ago. He is the epitome of a gentleman. I was saying it there that he is actually too nice to be a fighter – not a boxer now, but a fighter. It’s great – the first time since 1934 that an Irishman won a championship in America.”
Castleconnell councillor Shane Clifford said the whole parish was overjoyed when they heard that one of their own was champion of the world.
“We have been following Andy’s career for years and years through the highs and lows but knowing that his dedication, talent and hard work would one day ensure he got his just reward. That reward came in the early hours of Sunday morning and I know many stayed up to watch it live. Castleconnell is synonymous with sporting icons and now we have another to add to that long and proud list.”