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'It's the stuff of dreams' - Kellie Harrington is proud as punch to lead St Paddy's Day parade

Kellie Harrington yesterday as Permanent TSB unveiled sponsorship deal for Ireland's Olympic and Paralympic teams for the 2024 Games. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

OLYMPIC champion Kellie Harrington has said her "mind has been blown" at the prospect of being the Grand Marshal of the St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin.

The Portland Row native will share the honour with Paralympic swimming gold medallist and Dancing with the Stars contestant Ellen Keane.

"I just think it's mad that I'm going to be the Grand Marshal of our national parade.

"It's just mind blown. It is the stuff of dreams really," Harrington said.

She has fond memories of being taken to the parade by her father Christy when she was growing up in Dublin's inner city.

Her favourite viewing spot was from the top of the famous "Floozie in the Jacuzzi" Anna Livia sculpture on O'Connell Street until it was removed in 2001 to make way for the Spire.

"I remember going to the parade when I was a kid with me da and some of my brothers and some of the kids off the road.

"My da would bring us into the pound shop on the way in, just there on Earl Street, get a bag of sweets," Harrington said. "I don't know how we never got lost because I can't remember ever getting home from it.

"I remember it was always packed, jam-packed, and you'd have to squish yourself through the crowd to try and get up to the top barrier.

"My ma would have put curls in my hair or else crimping my hair. So my hair would be done and I'd be in the green and I'd have this big Paddy's Day badge on and green ribbons in my hair.

"So when you tried to squish through, your hair and your ribbons would be getting caught in people's buttons and zips and then you'd get to the front and watch the parade which was absolutely class.

"And if you weren't there you'd be on top of Anna Livia, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi, or you tried to get up onto an electric box somewhere.

"They're my good memories of when I was a kid going in there with my da.

"Now here I am being asked to be grand marshal along with Ellen; like that's the stuff of dreams really. It's just absolutely brilliant."

Harrington returned to the boxing ring last month winning the gold medal at the prestigious Strandja Cup tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, after a seven-month break following her Olympic triumph in Tokyo.

Apart from a short holiday in Portugal last autumn she either ran or lifted weights every day since returning from Japan.

"It's for my mental health more so than my physical health.

"I train because it nearly has a better psychological impact as it does a physiological impact for me," said Harrington, who was speaking at the announcement of a new deal with Permanent TSB, which is sponsoring the Irish Olympic and Paralympic teams for the 2024 Games.

Next stop for her is the World Championship, scheduled for Istanbul in May, but in the meantime she is planning her wedding to her long-time partner Mandy.

On how her preparations were going, she said: "It's going all right. I still have a bit to do. I still have to get shoes, and a bag, and organise a bus, flowers, rings. But look, it's going.

"The main thing is I'll be there, and she'll be there, and that's all that matters. Hopefully she'll be there!"

The tragedy unfolding in Ukraine resonates particularly strongly in the boxing community as a number of high-profile Ukrainian boxers have taken up arms to fight the invading Russian forces.

While Harrington has never met fellow boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, a former double Olympic gold medallist and professional World champion, she is a long-time admirer of the Ukrainian fighter.

"He was absolutely class. I think what he's doing and (Oleksandr) Usyk and the Klitschko brothers is absolutely brilliant: they're standing up for their country; it's absolutely fantastic," she said.

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