Strong Portlaoise ties to golden Katie

“KATIE Taylor is one of life’s wonders,” declared well known Portlaoise Boxing Club Head Coach Pat Ryan after he watched the Bray golden girl triumph at London’s ExCel Arena and realise her lifetime Olympic dream.

“KATIE Taylor is one of life’s wonders,” declared well known Portlaoise Boxing Club Head Coach Pat Ryan after he watched the Bray golden girl triumph at London’s ExCel Arena and realise her lifetime Olympic dream.

Pat, who worked as Assistant Coach to Katie’s father Pete for six years, described his pride at being present for last Thursday’s Gold Medal contest against Russian girl Sofya Ochigava which Katie dramatically won 10 points to 8.

“It was an amazing moment. The Excel Arena was packed to capacity and the Irish supporters were sensational. I reckon they made up 80 percent of the 10,000 crowd and the atmosphere was electric. Under pressure from Ochigava, Katie never wavered once.

“She is an extra special person and on a personal level I’m absolutely thrilled for Katie and her father Pete who has been with her on every step of her journey.”

Up to last year, Pat worked closely with Pete Taylor and he said he is looking forward to meeting him and Katie ‘over a cup of coffee to have a chat’ shortly after the homecoming celebrations wind down.

Any time she needed to, Katie was able ‘to spar’ in Portlaoise without interuption.

Pat added, “She enjoyed her visits to our club. What you see with Katie is exactly what you get. There are no airs and graces. And reaching the pinnacle of her sport is just reward for her years of determination and sacrifice.

“It was her desire since she was a young child to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games and there is a huge lesson there for everyone. We all must have an ambition in life and shouldn’t lose sight of it no matter what obstacles come our way.

“Yes Katie did meet obstacles and there were a lot of knocks but she remained focused and Pete played a huge role. I would say without fear of contradiction that there is no way on this planet Katie would have got to where she is without the dedication and support of her Dad.

“She received constant approaches to turn professional which they resisted and when things got difficult Pete always had a cool head and done what was best. They are both very humble people and deserve all the accolades,” said the Portlaoise coach

Pat had the privilege of being in St Petersburg during 2010 when Katie was invited to box in a tournament there with the aim of trying to secure the inclusion of Women’s Boxing in the 2012 Olympic Games.

“It was a great thrill to be there and see Katie named boxer of that tournament and to be informed afterwards by a representative from the International Olympic Council that Women’s Boxing would be included at the London Games. It was everything that Katie and her Dad campaigned for and they were the happiest people in the world that night as I’m sure they are right now also,” he said.

Pat also firmly believes that Katie should become ‘the face of the Olympics’ and that the Irish Sports Council (ISC) should have a contract waiting for her to sign, making her the country’s Ambassador for Boxing. He suggested that an ambassador’s role should have been created twenty years ago when Michael Carruth returned from the Barcelona Olympic Games with a gold medal.

Pat recalls that he first became a member of Portlaoise Boxing Club when he was nine years old and he has been a coach for almost thirty-five years. There are currently 130 members and the club boasts three national female champions – Casey Houlihan, Samantha O’Reilly and Agatha Mudrjk. According to Pat the upsurge in requests from girls to join boxing clubs is down to to Katie Taylor. He drew similarities between women’s boxing and how ladies gaelic football.

“We’d 207 ladies competing in the 2012 National Boxing Championships and as boxing clubs everywhere, including Portlaoise, prepare for an influx of young girls and bring forward the next generation of boxers, we’ve got to be prepared to meet that challenge and have the necessary qualified volunteers in place to cater for the demand.”

Katie ‘sparred’ regularly with eight-times Portlaoise national champion Michael O’Reilly and she is a frequent visitor to the town of Portlaoise.

Pat has coached with the IABA’s High Performance Unit since it was incepted nine years ago and he has accompanied Irish squads at European and World Championships.

While in May of this year he travelled to the Algirdas Socikas Multi-Nations event in Kaunas, Lithuania as one of the coaches to Ireland’s nine-man squad that included ten-time Irish Elite champion Ken Egan, a silver medal winner at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

He explained how Katie, on the Wednesday prior to her departure to London, ‘sparred’ with Michael Nevin, a south paw who was runner-up in the National Finals to Mullingar Olympic silver medal winner John Joe Nevin.

“Before each competition we’d sit down and assess opponents and since Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas, whom Katie fought in the quarter-final, was identified as a talented south paw it was decided she should be sparring with a south paw. Sofya Ochigava was seen as her biggest threat and Katie’s ‘sparring’ was designed to ensure she was prepared for all possible eventualities and style of opponent,” he said.

There were unbridled scenes of joy in Katie’s home town of Bray on Monday evening when her fans came out to acclaim her gold medal success and Pat felt the reception was more than deserved.

“She is one of life’s wonders. She mesmerised us with her quality performances at the Olympic Games as did Joe Joe Nevin, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes. The hospitality of the English was exemplary and to see Katie on the podium accepting her gold medal was a source of enormous pride. It brought a lot of happiness to people from all walks of life and was certainly uplifting in these recessionary times,” concluded Pat.