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Sports fan

Taoiseach found Ali's death the most difficult celebrity loss to take this year

The Taoiseach also said he believed UFC fighter Conor McGregor is a superstar.

THIS YEAR WILL go down as one that claimed an inordinate number of stars from our orbit.

There was David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Leonard Cohen to mention but a few. But for the Taoiseach, there was one high-profile death that caught him off-guard the most. Enda Kenny told that he was most affected by the death of one of world’s greatest boxers in 2016.

I would say [I was most affected] when the Louisville Lip went home. Muhammad Ali was an iconic figure for me in world sport for so many years and I met him two or three times over quite a number of years ago.
An extraordinary man and you know, were he in the height of his powers now, with his peace-loving attitude and his capacity to bring people with him, there might be a different result in a lot of other countries’ attitudes.
The Taoiseach has long been a fan of Ali. Speaking after his funeral this year, he recalled that the champion heavyweight came to the Dáil in 1972 before his fight with Al ‘Blue’ Lewis at Croke Park. Kenny was first elected to Dáil Eireann in 1975.
He came into the Dail and he signed autographs for some of the Deputies that were around on that day. One of those was a gentleman called Joseph R Lenihan of Belmullet, Co Mayo, who could talk equally as comfortably as Muhammad, but maybe not as fast.
The champ signed his autograph for him on a piece of notepaper, and Joe said to him, “But Muhammad, this is no good to me, I have fourteen children.” And Ali replied, “Well, here’s my pen – write all you like.

On another occasion, Kenny met Ali in New York with his wife a few years ago.

He was unable to respond, but you could see the light in his eyes. I asked him a question about some of the fights he had, and he didn’t fully understand that question. So I asked his wife, and she said to Ali that I had mentioned Joe Frazier. His eyes lit up.

Kenny also said he respects Ireland’s leading UFC fighter, Conor McGregor. Last month, the Taoiseach rejected the idea that he was not a fan of the fighter after he failed to congratulate the UFC star following his history making win in New York. When asked if he thought McGregor was a worthy winner of the sports personality of the year award, Kenny said:

Conor McGregor is a fabulous athlete. He is no-nonsense man, obviously and he is a worthy winner of the sports personality of the year. Sometimes when you see the fights in the cage you might say its brought boxing or fighting to a new dimension. McGregor is world superstar.

VIDEO: The day Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher taught Muhammad Ali to hurl>

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