In Australia they have a horse race which, they claim, can stop a nation. It’s known as the Melbourne Cup, and has been won on two occasions in recent times by horses trained on the Curragh by Dermot Weld.
In Ireland we have a boxer, who, we KNOW, can stop a nation.
Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Where were you when Houghton scored against England? Where were you when Sheridan didn’t score for Meath?
Forget all that. Where were you when Katie Taylor danced, ducked and punched her way to a famous Olympic win on Thursday last? Like a million-plus people in this country, looking in on coverage from RTE or BBC more than likely.
A crescendo of public admiration – and adoration - for the Bray girl gathered momentum after she had dispatched her quarter-final opponent. And when she won her semi-final, people who wouldn’t know the difference between a wedding ring and one with ropes around it were asking would we be looking in on Thursday evening. Bosses, some of them throwing plummeting figures to the wind, gave workers time off, and there were even reduced drink prices, not to mention doorsteps and saucies, in some hostelries.
It was never likely Katie would let a nation down. She’d been brilliant in the preliminaries, and even before it was decided there’d be ladies boxing at the Olympics for the first time, she was beating all before her in every corner of the world.
Her Gold medal win helped make this celebration one of the finest Ireland has had. Three other boxers got on to the podium, and there was also a salute for a showjumper. A couple of others missed out in a photo-finish, Annelise Murphy’s being of the heartbreaking variety. Rob Heffernan almost walked his way into the record-books.
This was London’s third time to play host to the Games. It all went spectacularly well, arguably the greatest-ever celebration. Or was it just that everything was presented so brilliantly on television?
When you had someone like Bolt going faster than the wind, Chicherova flying higher than a bird and Farrah pushing endurance to the limit, the pictures must be good. They were, and more.
We could, of course, have done with a lot less of the studio talk, as much in Montrose as anywhere else, but nothing could undo the quality of what we were seeing coming through from venues in and around London and further afield.
It’s a quintessential British one, but worthy nonetheless: Hats off.