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A look back: Cathal O'Shannon v Muhammad Ali

On the day of his death, celebrates the work of journalist Cathal O’Shannon with a look back at his most famous interview with boxing superstar Muhammad Ali.
Oct 22nd 2011, 3:38 PM 1,911 10

RTÉ HAS ANNOUNCED the death of its former journalist and filmmaker Cathal O’Shannon.

He was 83.

O’Shannon began his journalism career at the Irish Times, where he became a foreign correspondent. He worked at the newspaper’s London desk.

On moving to RTÉ, he was praised for his broadcasting work, including Spanish Civil War documentary Even the Olives are Bleeding and World War II series Who Was Gunner Mason.

However, many believe his finest hour came when Muhammad Ali landed in Ireland in 1972.

During a sit-down studio interview, the boxer joked that O’Shannon was a man of “less intelligence” but he was capable of holding his own with Ali, a man infamous for his erratic temperament.

Glen Killane, managing director of RTÉ Television described that interview as ”one of the best” ever carried by the broadcaster and “one of the most relaxed and entertaining that Ali – then perhaps the world’s greatest celebrity – ever did”.

Ali had the audience laughing with impersonations of “ugly fighters” and explanations of his superiority. He also performed a magic trick (see Round 4 below).

However, O’Shannon did not shy away from the more serious questions, asking Ali about refusing to join the US Army because of the religion he embraced (Round 5 below).

Watch O’Shannon and Ali in action during the first minutes of that famous interview (Links to rounds 2-5 under the clip):

Round 2: O’Shannon and Ali

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

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Sinead O'Carroll


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