Sport is truly a gift from God – Fr Joe

I drove down Portland Row, past Kellie Harrington’s house, late on Tuesday evening. Even in the near darkness you could see there were all the signs of a warm welcome home, for a local hero and a national treasure. There were flags and bunting streaming from every house, pictures of Kellie on the lamp posts and lots of posters and banners to make her feel appreciated and special. Little groups of neighbours and friends were still sitting around in their gardens and on the street, chatting, having a glass or two and basking in the warm glow of her success. No doubt she was inside relaxing with her own people after an emotional day in the full glare of the public eye. From touch down in Dublin Airport until she crawled under the soft down duvet, she was buzzing.

Amazingly she continued not just to be the best in the boxing ring, but also as accomplished in front of the camera and microphone as any celebrity or politician. To say, ‘she’s a natural’ would be to understate her capacity to speak warmly, with generosity and gratitude, over and over again, in every interview. She even managed to coin a completely new phrase, used to describe the feeling of being elated and overwhelmed with all the attention and response to her accomplishment she said “me head is like a woolly pigeon”.

Ireland has an amazing spirit of amateur sport, and women’s boxing is no exception. One talented, gifted and exceptional athlete shone the bright light of joy and love of sport on the discipline that she has committed herself to for almost 20 years. Arriving at the top of her sport, the Gold medal around her neck, affirmed and adored, is the outcome of extraordinary commitment and dedication, hours of training, developing those skills inch by inch, year by year, struggling through injury and setbacks but never giving up, always believing in herself and taking the most from those who trained and supported her along the way. She has persevered and made it to the top but she has lost nothing of her humanity, her love of family and her pride in the community that raised her and the nation she represents.

Kellie, the Tricolour, our National anthem, a radiant face, the warm embrace from Mandy, the feelings of pride and joy, a fabulous woman, a magic moment, a memory that will never fade. Thank you, and thanks to all our athletes and everyone who makes their participation possible. .