Katie Taylor’s neighbours and friends pay tribute to historic win

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World champion Katie Taylor was the pride of the nation last weekend as she battled to glory in the greatest fight in female boxing history.

On the world stage, she’s a sporting icon – one of the top 10 women’s athletes of the 21st century.

But at St Kilian’s Community School in Bray, Co Wicklow, she’s simply known as “Our Katie”.

Read more: Inside Katie Taylor’s secret US home hidden by woods with speedboat and own boxing gym

And her proud-as-punch former principal John Murphy reveals the boxing champ had brains to burn as well as brawn.

The school head, who taught Katie maths for five years at the school she attended with older siblings Sarah, Lee and Peter, said: “Our Katie really could have done anything in life.

“What’s missing in the profiles of Katie is that academically, she’s so very strong.

“She always operated at an extremely high level and did a full Higher Level Leaving Cert in every subject.”

Katie, 35, was also a soccer star making national headlines as the
only girl on the U14 Wicklow Kennedy Cup team – crowned Player Of
The Year.

Later, she was a star player on the U17 and U19 Ireland soccer squads.

John said: “Between the Easter and Summer of her Leaving Cert year, she was away on three international trips for boxing and football and she still kept up her study.

“Even as a teenager, she was a complete professional.

“For someone so strong academically to keep that going while having the training regime going in two sports, club and international and never falling behind, never complaining, always with that discipline and good humour.

“Sometimes young people come along who have more than what’s common in terms of talent and ability, a sense of who they are. She always had that.

“Here we understood the depth of her character, her integrity, her uniqueness, her values – how she does what she does with pure class and integrity that isn’t as prevalent in public life as it should be.

“She made a new reality in women’s boxing. We are so proud – she’s an inspiration.”

And Katie’s boxing heroics are already having a ripple effect, inspiring local schoolkids to shoot for the stars. Right inside the door of St Kilian’s, a shrine to Katie greets visitors.

She smiles out of one photo, wearing her old wine school uniform and striped tie, in another she’s back as Olympic champion after winning gold in London.

In others, she’s holding flowers and or giving talks to rapt students.

Down another corridor, Katie’s face beams from a mosaic that covers an entire wall.

Fourth year student Jodie Byrne, 16, said: “I was six when I watched her at the Olympics in London and it definitely made me really excited about doing the boxing.”

She boxes at local club, St Teresa’s, and is just back from a three-day training camp in Dorset with the Leinster Junior Girls.

She grew up near Katie on the Old Court Estate, a 15-minute walk away.

Jodie said: “Katie used to babysit for my older brother Adam and his friend Jake and bring them to the cinema.

“She was always so nice. I was five then but I really looked up to her boxing. She got me and my friends into it.”

Next to Jodie is boxer Sean Tyndall, 16.

He said: “I used to train with her.”

Now Sean has a slew of boxing prizes under his belt too, along with his brother Matthew.

Sean’s parents – along with half of Bray, he reckons – went to New York for Katie’s Madison Square Garden bout against Amanda Serrano.

He said: “I got into boxing at three and I was about five when Katie was doing some training – she’s very tough.”

Down at Bray Emmets GAA Club, Dave Barry, a former schoolteacher at Katie’s old primary, St Fergal’s National School, is up to his eyes with the fifth and sixth class blitz.

But he’s delighted to take some time out to sing Katie’s praises – and make a confession.

Dave admitted: “She played one game with us, our minor final in 2001 and I didn’t start her on the day of the final.

“I told Katie beforehand I’d put her on at half-time. I felt it was unfair on
the other girls. She came on and scored four points in play – the opposition were in awe.

“Aine O’Gorman was on that team and Mikaela Shelley – all star players. Katie was a pure athlete – you could play her midfield, forward, marking.

“And athletics too – so fast.

“Katie was well able to compete with any of the boys at that time.

“There was a ruling then girls could only play soccer up to a certain age.

“There were no girls’ teams so she was playing with the boys’ team – but Katie broke that rule too.

“Tom Sargent the principal really encouraged and spotted something in her.

Just like the boxing – look now, girls’ football has taken off now all over big time – it was Katie who broke that ground. Katie expresses herself playing any sport but as a person, she’s quiet – no airs and graces.”

Talk of her humility is echoed by her old neighbours on the Old Court Estate.

Noel Moloney, 69, said: “She’s never forgotten where she came from, nothing high and mighty about our Katie – feet on the ground – that’s what it’s all about for her.”

The great grandad-of-five was out sunning himself with wife Geraldine and daughter, Noeleen McAteer in the garden a few doors from where Katie grew up and where Noel mounts a giant TV and invites all the neighbours round for a viewing party every time Katie has a big fight.

He said: “The telly would be in the garden and it’d be packed here with the estate, out having the few beers.”

Noel’s hallway walls are adorned with framed newspaper front pages celebrating Katie’s wins and a signed T-shirt from the girl herself.

He points towards the green in front of the row of houses. Noel said: “She was up there on the bank field with the goalpost and the two coats down one end and she always wanted to be playing out there with the lads and she got very stuck in, ruffled it up with the boys. Oh, she could do it.

“She was always mad to spar with the hardest boys in the boxing club and she gave as good as she got.

“She couldn’t wait to get out of the house on a Friday and Tuesday. She’d never pass by without saying hello.”

As well as the hilltop home in the US state of Connecticut that Katie bought in 2019, she also bought a new home on nearby leafy Herbert Road in Bray, where her mother Bridget also lives.

Noel said: “They only went around the corner and the brother lives on
the avenue.

“Granny Kathy is past 90 and she lives around too.

“We moved in 1971. We were all from Wolfe Tone – and Bridget was too. All great neighbours down from Wolfe Tone. Pete the dad’s a lovely man too.”

As Bray locals once again call for a statue of Katie on the seafront, it remains to be seen if Katie will bend to the idea.

School prinicipal John said: “She’s a celebrity but she hasn’t compromised those deep values of her faith, family and friends and she does everything on her own terms – she’s a role model for the TikTok generation.”

Read more: Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano rematch in Croke Park given thumbs up by stadium boss and residents

Read more: Kellie Harrington’s mam calls for her and Katie Taylor to headline at Croke Park

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.