There is only one talking point in Dungiven these days and anyone passing through the town can’t fail to feel the buzz it has created.
The World Title challenge between local boxing champ Paul McCloskey and Amir Khan on April 16 in Manchester has seen the entire town rally to support their hometown hero, who has forever been known to locals as Dudey.
“The whole town is on a high,” said Gerard Mullan, who is involved with planning events, “and if you’re chatting to people and they haven’t got a ticket they’re looking about a ticket.”
People in Dungiven say it’s the biggest thing to happen in years and are doing all they can to make sure everyone knows it.
Roughly 3,600 metres of bunting in McCloskey’s colours of black and white festoons the streets, while a massive banner of support for Dudey flaps high in the air at the top of the town.
Workmen have handed over their vans for a makeover to promote the highly anticipated clash, painting them yellow and red and displaying details of the fight and where to buy tickets.
This week, events stepped up a gear with Sky TV cameras rolling into town to film supporters of McCloskey at St. Canice’s GAC club. Today they are scheduled to visit the local primary school and shoot footage where Paul grew up in Mitchell Park. Cameras will also be filming at St. Canice’s Amateur Boxing Club where the 31-year-old southpaw first stepped into a ring and trained for years, under the skilful eye of former coach Vinnie Hargan.
“There’s just a great buzz about the town and we have all the shops doing up their fronts and the winner will get a signed Dudey hoodie. The closing date for that will be 23rd March. The schools in Dungiven Parish are also taking part in a poster competition and that will be judged by Paul’s wife Emma. Again there will be signed hoodies up for grabs,” said Mr. Mullan, a long time support of Dudey.
“Everyone is really excited about it and looking forward to it. We thought it was big when Derry won the All Ireland in 1993, and then we had Eoghan Quigg on the X Factor, but this is the daddy of them all. I think it’s so big for us because Paul is so local. He’s always around and when you see him he always chats. He is just a gentleman. This is, without a doubt, the biggest thing to happen.”
On April 3rd, an outdoor parade involving local clubs and organisations will take part followed by an outdoor disco.
“It’s great because it gives everyone a lift and we all need it. I’d say come 16th April there won’t be too many people left about Dungiven.”
St. Canice’s, Dungiven PS vice principal, Margaret Owens said pupils have been busy making posters for their hero who is a former pupil.
“It’s brilliant for the school, and the whole community,” she said. “Everone is just so excited about it. Paul comes in regularly to the school to make presentations and even after his last fight he was in here within days. The children love him.”