| 9.1°C Dublin

Fighting pride Portland Row is a crucible where sporting legends like Kellie Harrington are forged

It takes a great community to help build a true champ

Close

Kellie Harrington celebrates with her gold medal after defeating Beatriz Ferreira of Brazil in their women's lightweight final during the final day of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington celebrates with her gold medal after defeating Beatriz Ferreira of Brazil in their women's lightweight final during the final day of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington celebrates with her gold medal after defeating Beatriz Ferreira of Brazil in their women's lightweight final during the final day of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

THE sheen of joy, the dazzle of pride she has brought to Portland Row is more precious than any Olympic medal.

Read these two glorious soundbites, let them land as crisply as one of her right-left combinations at your emotional core, and understand the glinting treasure

Kellie Harrington has gift-wrapped and presented to Dublin’s north inner city.

“Do you know what, we were so low after that lockdown and my God, this is after lifting us.

"Like, Jesus, I feel like roaring crying. You feel like you’re on cloud nine, don’t you? It’s amazing, the way that one person can lift you.”

Isn’t that a simply gorgeous articulation of what so many have felt this past week?

Close

Yvonne Harrington (centre) celebrates with family and friends outside her home in Dublin (Damian Eagers/PA)

Yvonne Harrington (centre) celebrates with family and friends outside her home in Dublin (Damian Eagers/PA)

Yvonne Harrington (centre) celebrates with family and friends outside her home in Dublin (Damian Eagers/PA)

That was Berno, a neighbour of the Harringtons, getting to the nub of the beautiful thing one of their own has authored.

And this is Kellie’s Dad, Christy, his heart almost bursting as he flies a flag for the place he knows only as Home.

“This is not a disadvantaged area. This is a magic area, and we have magic here from all walks of life doing very well. This is like they all got their Covid injection together.”

Clearly, there is class on every branch of that family tree.

Portland Row is a broad, arrow-straight artery running from North Strand to Summerhill.

This last week it has sat merrily under a thick parasol of tricolour bunting. A tapestry of green, white and orange stretches to the horizon, like a vivid airborne rug.

A magic carpet, a technicolour dreamcoat for these enchanted days.

The Five Lamps, an iconic Dublin landmark, an essential prop to the city’s most irreverent punchline, stands sentinel over the eastern borders of Kellie’s kingdom.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

There is talk of lighting its five flames in a colour that corresponds with the gold medal the 31-year-old is bringing home.

Croke Park scrapes the sky on its north-western outskirts; an abundance of Hill 16 lifers walk these streets.

Portland Row is a crucible where sporting legends are forged.

Before Kellie, there was Wes Hoolahan, the cerebral playmaker who tattooed his initials into the skin of Euro 2016. This used to be his playground.

Stephen Elliott, another Irish international of recent vintage, dreamed boyhood imaginings up the road.

For this past week, Portland Row and the warren of little streets that flow like tributaries into the big river, have taken on the characteristics of a diamond mine.

Close

The family of Irish boxer Kellie Harrington, mother Yvonne and father Christy (Damian Eagers/PA)

The family of Irish boxer Kellie Harrington, mother Yvonne and father Christy (Damian Eagers/PA)

The family of Irish boxer Kellie Harrington, mother Yvonne and father Christy (Damian Eagers/PA)

The place is sparkling like a Tiffany’s window.

Every square foot is yielding gems of intense pride, every resident

giving off the twinkle and glint of community spirit.

Sometimes a neighbourhood doesn’t have to reside within the silken folds of privilege to feel rich.

It matters hugely yet it hardly matters at all whether the crown jewel Kellie bore from the Ryogoku Kokugikan Arena this morning was shaded gold or silver.

Close

Kellie Harrington lands a lovely left on Beatriz Ferreira

Kellie Harrington lands a lovely left on Beatriz Ferreira

Kellie Harrington lands a lovely left on Beatriz Ferreira

Her greatest victory has been the manner in which she has hoisted her homeplace onto the podium, shone an inspiring light on an area often reduced to grim caricature.

Inner city Dublin carries its scars: The heroin needles have shot life-destroying poison into too many veins; unemployment has ransacked reserves of self-worth.

But it is neither a one-dimensional nor a grey place. Laughter and wit and resilience are fundamental to the stories of Portland Row and Sean McDermott Street and Ballybough.

Harrington is loved around here not merely because she is a supreme athlete who has electrified the nation with her postcards from Tokyo, but because of another gold standard she meets: The kind of person she is.

Bright, articulate and radiating an essential goodness.

An exemplar and a heroine. Part of the fabric which wraps around and warms a locality.

When a house on nearby Buckingham Street went up in flames, Kellie auctioned one of her boxing belts and presented the money to the family.

When Harrington joined the local women in dawn exercise classes through lockdown, it was never a big deal. Rather, it came as naturally to her as an intake of oxygen.

That’s the kind of stuff you can’t teach. It’s called class.

Remember her voice breaking in the TV interview immediately after she secured her bronze.

It was the bricks and mortar of her neighbourhood streets and the people who reside within them that colonised her thoughts.

“I’m overwhelmed with emotions at the moment…a bronze medal in my bag from the Olympic Games…the support that I’m getting from the community back home, I’ve heard that its lit back home, you know…

“And I’m just so happy – she’s prodding her chest now with a left hand still cloaked in a fighter’s hand-wrap – my emotions really come when it comes to this, you know.

Because to be able to give them something to be happy about and to sing and dance for, you know, it’s just one person, like lifting a bit of a nation.”

Close

Zaur Antia with Kellie Harrington.

Zaur Antia with Kellie Harrington.

Zaur Antia with Kellie Harrington.

Truly, it is when she exits the ring, those fists of stone decommissioned, limbs that have whirled and spun in a helicopter rotor blur for nine minutes falling silent, that Harrington lands her most powerful punches.

Flurries of elation and wisdom; relief and gratitude; hope and love.

The authenticity of this warrior woman from Dublin’s inner-city touches us precisely where the heart resides.

It might even prompt a reworking of that immortal punchline known to every child of Dublin.

Do you know the Five Lamps?

Well, follow its light and you will find the street that gave the world Kellie Harrington.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy