Only the strongest shoulders can carry the hopes of a nation and in our fabled sporting history many have been heroic enough to put the dreams of a small isle on their backs.
It’s important that when we look back on Irelands greatest sports people of all time that we are not blinded by that old demon of nostalgia. Whilst we so clearly remember single performances of Richard Dunne in Russia or Munster rugby turning over the All-Blacks of New Zealand in 1978, it is vital that we acknowledge the legendary career that Katie Taylor has already created for herself.
At a 19 – 0 record with 6 knockouts to boot, the Wicklow star currently holds 5 belts: the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring female lightweight titles. When we look at these accolades without context they can almost appear hollow without further analysis. For said context, Katie Taylor is currently dominating one of the most competitive divisions in world boxing, regardless of gender.
Following her victory over Delfine Persoon in 2019, Taylor became one of only eight boxers in history (female or male) to hold all four major world titles in boxing simultaneously.
Another key component which adds to the ever-growing legacy that the 35 year-old has shaped for herself is the fact that the Bray native has also represented the Ireland national team in association football on 11 occasions and even scored twice. Taylor played at the highest level in Irish woman’s soccer with Dublin based club Peamount United where she managed to claim a treble in 2010 in a star-studded side that featured 4 other Irish internationals.
When we look at other possible mentions in the (hopefully) ever growing numbers of Irish sports stars, few have such a stellar ability to capture the hearts of our nation much like the aptly named “Bray Bomber”.
I think that Conor McGregor has not reached the highs that Taylor has reached when contrasting accolades despite the Notorious one being the “face” of the UFC company for multiple years.
Also, I believe that although Roy Keane will often be thought of as the best Irish soccer player we’ve ever produced, his decision to leave the training ground of Saipan in 2002 leaves a permanent asterisk on his resume.
In truth, the debates will be had in all sorts of establishments for years to come. One will say this and will say that, but it’s hard to look past our own, Katie Taylor.