This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

VIDEO: When Muhammad Ali came to Ireland

Film tells story of how a circus strongman from Kerry brought ‘The Greatest’ to fight in Croke Park in 1972.

Getting Ali to the ring in Croke Park in 1972
Getting Ali to the ring in Croke Park in 1972
Image: True Films via Youtube

THE TALE OF how Muhammad Ali came to fight in Croke Park in the early 1970s is being told in a new documentary which premieres this weekend – and will be shown on RTÉ One on New Year’s Day.

When Ali Came to Ireland, which will show in the Irish Film Institute this coming Sunday, tells the story of how Butty Sugrue, a circus strongman from Killorglin, Co Kerry, pulled off a huge sporting coup for Ireland in July 1972. He arranged a fight in Croke Park between ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali and ex-con Al ‘Blue’ Lewis.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the fight and the filmmakers have assembled a wealth of archival material from the 1972 bout and Ali’s trip to Ireland as well as interviews with those involved in the event at the time. Those include Rock Brynner, son of actor Yul and Ali’s close friend and bodyguard, and Al ‘Blue’ Lewis himself, the opponent who was released from a life sentence for good behaviour and was given his big break in Dublin.

Also interviewed are Eddie Kerr, the hurler who taught Ali how to wield a sliotar and hurl; the Offaly team who built the ring in Croke Park and stayed up for the fight; and, poignantly, the late Cathal O’Shannon, who conducted a famously colourful interview with Ali on his 1972 outing here. His reminiscences of the boxer and his larger-than-life personality constitute one of O’Shannon’s own final interviews before his death last year.

  • When Ali Came to Ireland screens at the Irish Film Institute this Sunday, 16 December, at 1pm. There will be a Q&A after the screening with the filmmakers Ross Whitaker and Aideen O’Sullivan. Tickets to the screening are here.
  • The documentary will also be screened on RTÉ1 at 6.30pm on New Year’s Day.

Get a taster of what to expect – funky soundtrack included – with this trailer:

via TrueFilmsTV/

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Read next: