Belfast champion John McNally, the first Irish boxer to win an Olympic medal, has died at the age of 89.
John McNally won a silver medal at the 1952 Banta Weightlifting Games in Helsinki.
McNally, who was born in Pont Looney, west of Belfast, fondly remembers the applause he received on his return from his hometown in Finland.
“There was a hero’s welcome, to all the people of Loney, Falls, York Street and Shankill,” he said in a book he wrote with Barry Flynn about his life and career. John McNally, Forgotten Boxing Champion .
McNally, who retired from boxing in 1962, said of the sport in Ireland: “Boxing is the easiest thing to do if you’re good, they care about it, but what I love about boxing is that they are all just one religion.” Boxing is the only religion in this country. “.
The West Belfast man was always convinced he had to dig for gold and he shattered that decision.
He said of the fight: “It was the last day of the Games and the host country had not yet won a gold medal, so there was a lot of weight on the shoulders of the Finn.
“It was given to three judges and the British referee gave it to me, the American and the Austrian gave it to Hamalinen. I broke down and cried because I made sure to win the gold.”
McNally competed in the Warsaw European Championships the following year and won the bronze medal.
Before he became a professional, he represented Europe against the United States in the Golden Gloves and won three American champions in the Golden Gloves.
He was inducted into the Irish Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.
John’s unprecedented podium finish marked the beginning of an extraordinary 70-year feat for Irish boxers at the Helsinki Olympics.
Boxing, as Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, has won 18 of the country’s 35 medals. Nine medals have been won in Irish boxing since 2008.
McNally was honored posthumously.
His grandson Eamonn McNally wrote on Twitter: “Today I heard the sad news of the passing of my great uncle, John McNally, Ireland’s first Olympic boxer, the man who set the record for Irish boxing. The legend of Irish sport.
Fergal Carrot, IABA CEO, commented: “Johnny was a true gentleman and is fondly remembered by many in the Irish boxing family.
“An outstanding and naturally talented boxer, John pioneered the Olympic success of Irish boxing by winning his first (silver) medal in 1952.
IABA Hall of Fame inductee John McNall was the first of Ireland’s 18 Olympic medalists when he defeated a Finnish fighter from his home country by the slightest advantage in the gold medal competition in Helsinki.
His success as a boxer will always be remembered by all who love boxing in Ireland.
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