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comment The authenticity of Kellie Harrington touches us precisely where the heart resides

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Kellie Harrington of Ireland celebrates victory in her women's lightweight quarter-final bout against Imane Khelif of Algeria

Kellie Harrington of Ireland celebrates victory in her women's lightweight quarter-final bout against Imane Khelif of Algeria

Kellie Harrington of Ireland celebrates victory in her women's lightweight quarter-final bout against Imane Khelif of Algeria

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

Bronze medal secured, the stress of high expectation dissolving, the empress of Portland Row steps up to the microphone and begins to offload lovely, crisp emotional combinations: Flurries of elation and wisdom; relief and gratitude; hope and love.

Each one lands behind her audience’s ribs. The authenticity of this warrior woman from Dublin’s inner-city touches us precisely where the heart resides.

Kellie’s words are floodlit by the sheen illuminating her eyes. It is a glow of something close to rapture. Her entire being is a magnificent quiver of excitability.

Teary, joyous, ruddy-faced, and uncontainable.

Her sobbing honesty is a skeleton key opening every door to her inner self.

Each verbal flourish offers a profound insight into the 31-year-old’s long journey to this perfect day. The depth of emotion is as powerful as any uppercut, impacting at the nation’s solar plexus with winding force.

“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.”

The tremor of joy crosses continents and oceans, travels 6,000 miles in a nanosecond, jolts a midweek Irish dawn.

What is it about boxers and the lyrical, songbird hymns that flow from their core?

Almost unfailingly, they speak with candour and genuineness, they spray paint the air with an essential soundness that makes you want to bellow with reflected pride.

They invite us into the palace of themselves; free-of-charge, they present us with an access-all-areas pass.

On Friday, the RTE cameras found Kellie’s team-mate Michaela Walsh.

Michaela, her own pursuit of boxing immortality KO’d just 48 hours earlier, was completely overwhelmed by emotion as her brother, Aidan, reached out to seize an Olympic medal.

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With disarming Belfast candour, she says this, words more lyrical and beautiful and tear-jerking than Heaney or Yeats or O’Casey could ever conjure: “He’s my baby brother and my best friend. It’s a joy I’ve never felt before."

A joy I’ve never felt before.

Read that again and tell me it’s not the most perfect description of love you have ever encountered.

Here was an athlete who had seen everything she herself had toiled for crushed inside that roped rectangle. Yet there was not a trace of self-pity, just pure enchantment in being ringside to watch her sibling’s rising up.

Professional boxing is populated by any number of grubby, on-the-make, bloodsucking leeches.

Yet, with some notable exceptions, the prize-fighters themselves tend to be impressive people, oozing the kind of humanity, civility and beyond-their-years perspective that illuminates the Dark Trade.

In Ireland, amateur boxing is a miraculous flower on the national landscape.

At once an elite, high-achieving sport and, courtesy of all those club coaches’ heroic investments of time and solidity, their selfless toting of the torch of hope, quite literally a life-saving social service.

Harrington and Walsh have brought Ireland’s Olympic boxing medal haul since 1952 to 18 – a story of skyscraping achievement. The canvass of hurt where Katie Taylor and Michael Carruth tilled for gold is the five-ring field delivering by far the greatest harvest of precious metal.

Around 6am on Thursday Kellie will return to a Tokyo ring for a semi-final against a Thai opponent, all sorts of possibilities stretching out before her.

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Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Do yourself a favour: Set your alarm and rise to watch a woman who is among the very best of us.

In the early hours of this morning, high on the juice of life, a bronze medal secured, Kellie was dazzling and exuberant as she quoted The Lion King.

“Hakuna Matata, it means no worries for the rest of your days,” and as she spoke it seemed like she might burst with the sheer thrill of being alive.

Back home at that very moment, her often neglected acreage of the inner city, the one wedged between the Liffey and Croke Park, was an ecstatic bouquet of green, white and orange, a symphony of dance-in-the-street-at-dawn bliss.

This is the heartsoar Kellie Harrington has gift-wrapped and posted to Portland Row, to Dublin, to her home place.

Watching her bobbing and weaving within that roped rectangle like Ali himself, then lighting up TV screens with that from the soul interview, a realisation dawns with a power as jolting as the greatest punch she has ever thrown.

If Ireland can deliver a woman so beautiful in her bearing then, you know what, for all its faults, this can’t be such a bad place.

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