Mannion book is as much the emigrant story as boxer’s tale

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The great Ros Muc boxer Seán Mannion and I were once in Stringfellow’s Nightclub in London, where we were joined by SBB and his old Raidió na Gaeltachta colleague Mattie Joe Shéamuis for perhaps the most unusual four-ball the glorified strip-joint has ever seen.

We weren’t actually together of course and – by way of full disclosure – this episode took place in the middle of the day, when the club looked about as glamorous as a soggy, half-eaten sandwich left out in the rain.

The occasion was the weigh-in before Rocky Ros Muc took on Errol Christie at the Alexandra Palace on October 29, 1986, for what was to be his big homecoming after he had taken Mike McCallum the distance in their world title fight.

Seán Bán and Mattie were looking after proceedings for RnaG while waiting for the main event – and that largely consisted of Mattie dragging up dozens on Connemara ex-pats to SBB ringside to talk of their lives and times for the captive audience back home.

And when he ran out of Gaeilgeoirí to chat with, Seán Bán filled the airwaves with an insightful interview with the young lady who was carrying the signs over her head to indicate what round was coming up next.

The ring lady who was also a Page 3 girl had no Irish but that was of little consequence because SBB was both interviewer and translator for the duration.

The fight, if not SBB’s Star-bird interview, is beautifully recorded blow by blow in a new biography of Seán Mannion – or to be precise an English version of the original – called The Man Who was Never Knocked Down.

And I have to say, without fear of contradiction, that you’d work your way through many rain forests before you’ll come across a better biography on anyone, anywhere this year.

Author and broadcaster Rónán Mac Con Iomaire hasn’t just managed to tell the story – blow by blow, warts and all – of the man from Ros Muc who almost went all the way to the top.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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