|Katie Taylor after her victory on Thursday|
The Irish have suffered a few dreadful years, turning from Europe’s poster children, to goats.
All the old familiar devils are back; mass unemployment, rampant emigration, bankers greed, made worse now in some ways, because for a few brief shining years the country saw what it could become.
So heads are down and depression rampant and dreams are dying everywhere you look. Gloom, deep and dark, reigns
Then another hero comes along.
Katie Taylor is an unlikely one. Daughter of an English father, an evangelical Protestant who prays and gives praise before and after every fight, she is hardly the archetypal hero we have come to expect from the Emerald Isle.
But yesterday she broke all the stereotypes.
Before an audience that included Kate Middleton and thousands of Irish fans singing their hearts out, she won Ireland’s first gold medal of these games and the first since Michelle Smith’s highly dubious swimming haul in 1996 in Atlanta.
Ireland has only won eight gold medals in the history of the Olympics. Taylor won one of the first Olympic boxing medals for women and in the process stamped herself as one of the heroes of the games.
A Cinderella sport so long ignored by the International Olympic Committee at last found its day in the sun -- and a heroine to go along with it .
Don’t just take the Irish word for it. Here is what Sports Illustrated said.
“Looking for the most popular athlete at the Olympics? Any list has to include Taylor. Katie Taylor might be the most popular athlete in any sport at the London Olympics,” the magazine’s website reported on Thursday.
And here is what the London-based Guardian said after her victory
“Katie Taylor is a giant of Irish boxing, European, World, and now Olympic champion – a showman and a folk heroine.
“Everything she does gets a roar, whether it's hugging her coach – who doubles as her father – or grinning at the camera. She has very easy manners, a look of genuine affection when she makes her peace with her opponent at the end of each fight; if there is one Olympic athlete you'd go to the pub with (apart from Bradley Wiggins), it would be Taylor. “
When the Irish anthem was played for the first time in 16 years at the Olympics at the London venue there was not a dry eye in the house or in Ireland or among those abroad watching.
The sun came out for Ireland yesterday, after a lousy spell, and a modest 26-year old girl from Bray, County Wicklow became an unlikely hero.
In the process she lifted Irish hearts back where they belonged.