In association with The Social Family
IT MIGHT be a year when Ireland’s biggest splash in the sporting world so far has been the incredible back to back wins in the Grand National for Tiger Roll. But we’ve a new sporting heroine too in our very own Becky Lynch.
That’s because in March of this year the 32-year-old from Limerick became the first ever female wrestler to hold both the Raw Women’s Championship and the Smackdown Women’s Championship at the same time.
It’s been a long road for Becky to reach this point, some 17 years since she had her first professional fight. She won both belts with victory at WrestleMania 35, which was held in the prestigious surroundings of the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and came after defeating arch rivals Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in a triple-threat match. The win makes Becky the hot favourite to win the WWE 2K20 Cover Star, with her odds falling as short as 1/6, returning a £1.67 profit from a £10 bet, according to the bet calculator.
Yes, we all know that pro-wrestling is scripted, but that does by no means make Becky's achievements 'fake'. Ability and personality all come into who's top dog in WWE, and winning both women's championships at the same time is the wrestling equivalent of winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe award in the same year in Hollywood.
Of course, Becky’s not the only fighting champion to come from Ireland and one the most recent has been Dublin’s Conor McGregor. The 30-year-old has been one of Ireland’s most high profile sporting stars of the decade whose fame has largely been built on achieving the remarkable feat of being the Ultimate Fighting Champion in both the featherweight and lightweight categories simultaneously. Even more remarkable is the way that he achieved some of his victories, for example when he claimed the featherweight title by defeating challenger José Aldo in just 13 seconds.
But the one fight that has overshadowed all others was his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather back in 2017. The much-hyped event ended in defeat for McGregor. But, on the plus side, it’s reported to have earned him $100 million. So no wonder he announced his retirement in March of this year.
Our third champion of the ring is Finn Bálor. Aged 37 and hailing from Co. Wicklow, the fighter’s real name is Fergal Devitt and he has also been known to appear under the name Prince Devitt. He is the current Intercontinental champion in WWE after he defeated former mixed martial-artist Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 35 – the same event which saw Becky Lynch claim her titles. Then, the day after his victory, he faced an impromptu challenge but was able to defeat Sami Zayn with ease.
Bálor is no stranger to being a top performer - he’s a former world champion in WWE but was forced to relinquish his title back in 2016 due to injury - agonisingly the day after winning the belt. Earlier in his career he made a big splash in Japan by winning the IWGP junior heavyweight title three times and the corresponding tag title no less than six times.
But if we want to look at the man who is undoubtedly Ireland’s most famous boxer of the modern era, it has to be Barry McGuigan. When he became WBA featherweight champion after beating Eusebio Pedrosain a famous fight at Queen’s Park Rangers’ Loftus Road ground in 1985, the nation truly took the plucky fighter from County Monaghan to its heart. So when he returned to Belfast thousands lined the streets to welcome him home. Later that year he was also named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the first ever Irishman to win the award. Following retirement in 1989 he’s remained involved in boxing both as a promoter and as chair of the Professional Boxing Association.
Lastly, we have Ireland’s most recent success story. 33-year-old boxer Katie Taylor defeated Belgium’s Delfine Persoon to become the undisputed lightweight champion at Madison Square Garden in New York City last month. Her victory brought her personal record to 14 wins from 14 fights, with six of them coming via knockout. She also won gold at the 2012 London Olympics in the Lightweight category. Like Bálor, Taylor is from Co. Wicklow, and recently returned to her home town of Bray to celebrate her momentous victory.
There are many more famous Irish fighters from across the disciplines that we could mention but these are undoubtedly five of the very best. There’s also plenty of young up and coming talent on the way so look out for a new generation of stars starting to shine very soon.