Tributes flow for Quigley after European title

Alan Foley


Alan Foley

Tributes flow for Quigley after European title
Patsy McGonagle summed it up just right when he said there was a collective cheer to be heard rolling through Stranorlar on Saturday afternoon.

Patsy McGonagle summed it up just right when he said there was a collective cheer to be heard rolling through Stranorlar on Saturday afternoon.

It was just then the news filtered through on RTE television’s live transmission that Jason Quigley had just been confirmed as European Middleweight Boxing Champion in the Belarusian capital on Minsk.

“On the eighth of June, when the decision was announced, in Ard McColl you could hear the roars going up from all the houses at the same time,” McGonagle said. “It’s a moment that had to be captured because it was brilliant.”

On Monday evening, Quigley was welcomed home by the people of the Twin Towns, with his gold medal draped around his neck following victory in his first ever international event as a senior boxer.

Well-wishers cheered the arrival of Quigley through Ballybofey and onto Stranorlar before the entourage turned down at Millbrare towards the Finn Valley Centre, where his dad and coach Conor had first shown him the art of boxing as an 11-year-old.

Outside in the crowd, Eugene Duffy, in a bottle green blazer like a man who had just come off Augusta as US Masters champion, looked at Quigley’s two black eyes and asked how he was. “I’m grand thanks,” Quigley replied with a grin. “I was just doing a bit of boxing.”

Quigley, 22 now, must’ve shaken every hand in the Finn Valley, gradually wading his way in through the crowds. The reason for his popularity was the fact he’s the stereotypical boy next door, not forgetting who he is or where he comes from.

“The community has really taken this on board,” McGonagle added. “It’s a simple, straightforward story where you train, you focus, you stay with your dream and you follow your dream. Jason’s a special young man.

“Jason’s performance will inspire young people to follow his example and dream dreams. That’s how important something like this is. This is just a point in the journey. In a couple of days Jason will refocus and move on. You’ve got to be inspired.

“Everyone will tell you that the most key support on any athlete delivering performance is your closest family. They’re always going to be there. It’s about family, club and community - in that order.”

At the top table, Jason and Conor Quigley were joined by their wife and mother Murial, daughter and sister Holly, and what was essentially a hall of fame of the north-west’s other ambassadors for the sport.

“We pass on all our congratulations to Finn Valley and to Jason,” said Duffy, on behalf of the County Derry Amateur Boxing Board. “It’s a tremendous achievement. Well done and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer lad.”

Having boxed in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Brian Anderson Snr had arguably been the most famous name in boxing in the Twin Towns. McGonagle joked that the blazer he wore on Monday was the one from Japan, which still fits him and that Anderson had only put on 4lbs in the 49 years since.

“It’s an honour to be sitting here beside the man who is Irish champion and European gold medallist,” Anderson said.

Peter O’Donnell, the President of the Donegal County Boxing Board, was a welcome guest having overseen the development of countless young boxers in the county’s 17 clubs for many a long year. He’s forgotten more about boxing than most would care to remember.

“I’ve known Jason for a long time, ever since he was a little nipper coming down here on a Sunday afternoon.” O’Donnell said. “The only thing I can say is congratulations and you deserve everything you get. You’re a great ambassador for the sport and for all the clubs in Donegal.”

Charlie Nash was perhaps the most decorated of all in attendance, having been a multiple national champion and professional European champion himself, when he defeated Francesco Leon.

Nash reached the quarter-finals of the lightweight division at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where he lost to eventual champion, Jan Szczepaski from Poland.

“I’ve watched Jason’s fights on Friday and Saturday and he was fantastic,” Nash said. “With Conor’s back-up and knowledge of the sport it can only help Jason.”

Mayor of Donegal, Councillor Frank McBrearty, has been overseeing a host of sporting triumphs in the county since taking office.

However, a keen former boxer himself, Cllr McBrearty was of the opinion Quigley’s triumph in Belarus over the weekend was the most spectacular of all.

“The word focus is the best word to describe Jason with,” Cllr McBrearty said. “Conor and Murial can be very proud of him. Jason has a real strong family unit.

“I’m a real fan of boxing and I love the old style of boxing and Jason showed that in the European championships with three and four-punch combinations.

“That’s the kind of boxing I like to watch. Jason is an example if you focus your life, then you can be anything you want to be. Jason’s won the hardest thing there is to win because the European championships are so difficult. There’s going to be more big nights here for Jason in the years to come. This is the biggest achievement of any sports star in Donegal.”

The cheers echoed through the hall as the crowd stood to greet their hero. Those same cheers could be heard as far as Ard McCool.