Remarkable 'Oscar' story with a real Ballyshannon punch

Billed as the greatest boxing movie since Rocky and Raging Bull, multiple academy award nominated The Fighter has an unexpected but real life Donegal punch to it.

Billed as the greatest boxing movie since Rocky and Raging Bull, multiple academy award nominated The Fighter has an unexpected but real life Donegal punch to it.

One time Ballyshannon boxer Jack 'Jackie' Lally now living in Boston and who was training youngsters in his local club landed a role in the film The Fighter when Director David O. Russell and his crew came to Boston looking for an authentic Irish boxing trainer.

Boxing runs deep in the family as Jackie's younger brother Gerry, trains current members of Ballyshannon Boxing Club, while another brother Patsy was also an accomplished boxer in his day.

The role materialised by a quirk of fate, but is now paying off handsomely, in a scene that could genuinely have been taken from the legendary Rocky series. Jack has now landed himself a role as a villain in a new blockbuster movie, soon to be revealed, as well as appearances in a number of American tv series.

The Fighter is based on a true story. Mark Wahlberg of Bourne Ultimatum fame stars in the inspirational docudrama exploring the remarkable rise of Massachusetts-born, "Irish" Micky Ward. A determined boxer whose career in the ring was shepherded by loyal half-brother, Dicky (played by Christian Bale), a hard living boxer turned trainer whose own ring career was almost halted due to drugs and crime. But underdog Micky comes back from a devastating series of defeats to win both the WBU Intercontinental Lightweight title and the WBU Light Welterweight title thanks to a fierce combination of determination and hard work.

Jack plays the role of Shea Neary's trainer, the world champion, who stands against Ward winning the world belt.

"I drove a friend to the audition. While waiting, the casting director heard me talking and asked me to say a few lines. She said she loved my accent, took my name and number and l left it at that. A couple of weeks later I was offered a job as an extra, but I turned that down. Later I got another call and thought it was the same offer, but then they offered me a cameo part in the movie. I was then upgraded twice to the real thing with a principal role," Jack told the Donegal Democrat from Boston.

The movie, shot last year involved several flights from Boston to Los Angeles for filming sessions, working very hard for 12-14 hours a day with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Richard Eklund and Amy Adams.

"Working with the likes of Mark and Christian was a real eye-opener. In those fight scenes I really was in the corner with my boxer in a world championship bout. It was an unbelievable and emotive experience when you are right in the middle of it," the Donegal man revealed.

The Director wound up with 24 hours of film, which had to be cut back to 1.5 hours of finished film so most of Jack's lines were cut in the process, but he was not disheartened.

However Mark Wahlberg told him not to worry, that it was only his first film and that they'd cut less next time. The ‘next time' is materialising fast. Jack has been cast as a villain in the new film with others also in the pipeline. He has been given a number of roles in a series of popular American TV shows, two of which are aired on RTE 2, but for contract reasons, he cannot reveal them just yet.

Jackie hasn't been home in ten years, but will be this summer for a family occasion. He left during the last recession in 1985 and worked as a Union paint contractor.

"Even in Boston things were getting tough so this chance came at a great time for me and my family," Jack explained.

But that has all now changed for a man who readily admits he never would have bet in a million years that he would have made it to the silver screen.

His advice to young actors and boxers in Donegal is simple: "If I can make it anyway one. That is the great American dream, with a splash of Irish good luck."

And talking of good luck, he adds almost quaintly that he once defeated Barry McGuigan in a boxing bout in Bundoran!