Since Derry won the All Ireland in 1993 and brought the Sam Maguire to Dungiven, there have been plenty of occasions for the folk of the North Derry town to celebrate.
There have been countless victories by its footballers and hurlers and its local talent, such as Cara Dillon and Eoghan Quigg - the young man who took Dungiven into the homes of millions of people throughout the UK. Now, the town has been catapulted onto the world stage thanks to one man - Paul McCloskey.
Born and reared in Dungiven, for years he has quietly worked away in Eurospar on Station Road, learning the business owned by his in-laws. No matter when people meet him or what he’s doing, he always has time to chat, even if it’s about the same thing he has spoken about 90 times already. If he’s fed up with it, you’d never know. When he’s not in the shop, he’s training. And just a couple of days after his European title success, he slipped quietly into his old school, St. Canice’s PS to show off his belt.
McCloskey, a proud dad-of-two with his wife Emma, is so down to earth and that is what makes him so respected by everyone in the town and beyond. Just ‘Google’ his name and in 0.08 seconds there are 1,207,000 million results for him.
As one journalist in one of the English dailies described him: “Man of the People”.
Since the fight date was announced, Dungiven has been full of buzz about the fight. If they not talking about who bagged tickets for it, they’re talking about where they can watch it. Dudey posters, flags and bunting are everywhere.
A committee representing all the sporting clubs in Dungiven has been organised events in the run-up to the fight. They have involved schools throughout the Parish, organised Dudey Fest and his homecoming, which is set for Monday evening. They’ve given their time freely, pulling out all the stops to show Dudey just how much people respect him, illustrated when McCloskey made his final appearance in the town a fortnight ago and thousands packed the town.
The 31 year-old southpaw has done something magical for Dungiven that money can’t buy. He has given people something to be proud of. Quite simply, he has made people feel good.