DAVID O’LEARY’S penalty in the shootout against Romania in Italia 90, Gerry McLoughlin going over the line against England festooned with Saxons, Michael Carruth’s gold medal win at the 1992 Olympics, Sonia O’Sullivan’s World Championships win, Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net in 88.
My goal against for Prospect Priory in the 2nd round of the Moriarty Funeral Home & Pizza Parlour sponsored Division 1Z Cup at a wind and piebald pony swept Cals Park in 93 is another much debated moment in Irish sport.
That strike set a new record for deflections en route to the net, taking about 10 in all, including a ricochet off a low flying jackdaw, squaaaak, before inching it’s way apologetically over the line. We would have won that morn if there hadn’t been an opposition.
Ah, the great Cals Park, our field of dreams. Messi and the like merely have to make their way through a congested penalty area. In Cals, you had to avoid defenders, at least five different breeds of domestic dog, ponies, horses, winos, abandoned furniture, Gardai dragging a defender off the field – if it was a hurling match the bastards would have waited until full time to arrest him – and one opposing team brazenly starting a match with 13 players.They were using the revolutionary 4-5-3 formation.
Meantime, what about Eamon Coughlan breaking the four minute mile – after his 40th birthday – or Bernard Dunne dropping Ricardo Cordoba three times in the 11th round to claim the WBA super-bantamweight title. Earlier that same day, Ronan O’Gara, the hand of history on his shoulder, fired over the drop goal that bridged a 61-year gap since Ireland last won the Grand Slam.
All great Irish sporting moments. However, I reckon that Barry McGuigan dethroning the great Panamanian WBA featherweight champ Eusebio Pedroza on an emotionally charged night at Loftus Road in London in 1985 tops the lot.
McGuigan was at the National Stadium recently, trailing clouds of past glories. He was demonstrating, shadow-boxing style, how body shots could put manners on an opponent.
The shadow took two standing counts and its corner three in the towel before it was shifted off to the Mater gasping for breath, a pale imitation of its former self, ahem.
The former Irish Olympian was also at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Friday to launch his new book; Cyclone: My Story, a 260-page tome which has been acclaimed by Daniel Day Lewis.
Raised in the border town of Clones, Co. Monaghan, at the height of the troubles, McGuigan’s profile went far beyond the squared circle. He united people across sectarian and religious divides during a difficult time in Ireland’s political history.
A Catholic, Barry married his Protestant childhood sweetheart, Sandra, in 1981. An Irishman, he fought for the British Title, wearing boxing shorts in the colours of the United Nation’s Flag of Peace – and in place of a national anthem his musician father, Pat, sang a heartfelt rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ before his son’s title fights.
From the moment he took up boxing aged 11 after finding an antique pair of gloves in a derelict house to the build up to his world title fight, Cyclone: My Story spans the extraordinary highs, and lows, of McGuigan’s career.
He evocatively recreates his early days in the amateur ranks (training in a club run by farmers), his unsuccessful visit to the Olympics and his decision to turn pro, and then his progression to title-fight contender. Recollecting each of his fights, his vivid prose takes you right to the heart of training and sparring, and provides a blow-by-blow account of what happens when you step through the ropes into the ring.
Written with the perspective of a sportsman who has reached the peak of his game and then experienced life outside the ring, Cyclone: My Story contrasts professional glory with personal tragedy. Reflective and contemplative, McGuigan discusses the experiences of his daughter’s illness, brother’s suicide and the impact of the Young Ali fight to provide a unique insight into the place of success and boxing in his life.
Nigeria-born Ali slipped into a coma after he was KO’d by McGuigan in London in 1982. He died five months later. McGuigan, who dedicated his win over Pedroza to Young Ali, admitted that he was devastated.
“I went to the neutral corner and Ali did not get back up. The ref counted ten and he still did not move”, McGuigan recalled.
“I hadn’t taken up the game up the game to do something like that to somebody. I wanted to get the better of my opponent but I never wanted to hurt them. It shocked me, profoundly shocked me.”
“I was very down about it, very upset, I was questioning why I was boxing, whether or not I should continue. It was a strangely lonely and isolating experience to
The tortured morality of little wars. Maybe it was McGuigan’s tragedy to find himself articulate in such a dangerous language.
He recalled the moment in the 7th round when he finally broke the resistance of Pedroza at the home of QPR.
“The crowd were going absolutely mad as I went to a neutral corner as the ref was giving the count. I did what any good pro should do and turned to look at my corner.
“They should be calming you down, giving you advice – “throw a left and a right, hit him with a big left hook.” But I looked over and they were just leaping up and down and behind them the crowd were going crazy. I stood there thinking, what punch should I throw now?
“Pedroza really was a great champion as he came back strong in the eighth round, but the seventh was the turning point definitely, there was no way I was going to be denied after that.”
Shot-through with McGuigan’s characteristically unassuming, straightforward and open manner that won him a loyal army of fans, Cyclone: My Story is a fascinating portrait of one of boxing’s biggest icons.
The Clones Cyclone claimed 32 wins (28 KO’s) from 35 fights between 1981 and 1989.
Is this a shameless plug for McGuigan’s new book? Yes it is. We’d do anything around here for free drink.
However, a brown envelope is our ultimate target.