It's showtime: pride of Mullingar to be honoured at homecoming event
John Joe Nevin will be joined on an open-top bus by show jumper Joseph Murphy
MULLINGAR IS planning to put on a big show this evening for returning hero, boxer John Joe Nevin, who took silver on Saturday night.
Some 5,000 people crowded into the Dunnes Stores car park in the town to watch the fight, but the extended Nevin family were conspicuous by their absence.
Ongoing controversy concerning access to pubs in the town meant they chose a venue 10km outside Mullingar to watch the Olympic final.
The Covert is a familiar landmark on the N4, known to generations of truck drivers and coach passengers, and there was barely standing room for the fight.
Nevin’s mother and father and the rest of the extended family who saw his first three fights had by then come home from London. “We’d love to stay for the final, but we couldn’t afford it. It killed me to get into the boat to go home,” said Nevin’s mother, Winnie.
She sat in the corner, wore a T-shirt with her son’s image on it and a Tricolour cowboy hat, and could barely speak with nerves before the fight. How many Irish mothers get to see their son in an Olympic final?
Running around oblivious to all the fuss was the Olympian’s son, who turned two last week. He wore a juggler’s hat and lasted well, given how far past his bed time it was.
The mood was jovial; the extended Nevin family were already proud of their most famous son. How could they not be? Hed beaten the world champion just the day before.
The fight started and while many locals thought Nevin had won round one, it was given 5-3 to his opponent. They shouted “John Joe! John Joe! John Joe!” as Nevin tried to close the deficit but it was not to be.
His mother said they expected her boy to lose and it would be a home town decision either way. “He was up against an English lad. The Olympics were held in England. We were expecting him to be cheated. He was up against a good lad.”
“Im not disappointed,” said Hugh Nevin one of a multitude of Nevin cousins who watched the fight. “I’m proud of John Joe. He will be a winner in my heart. There’s a party on Monday for John Joe. There will be a party for the rest of his life.”
The Nevins chose the Covert because they felt, rightly or wrongly, that they would not be accommodated in pubs in Mullingar.
“I can get all the drink I want on my own,” said Christy “Ditsy” Nevin, “but if I bring in two or three others I won’t get served. It is a thundering disgrace. I thought that all this discrimination was over since Nelson Mandela came out of jail.”
John Joe Nevin’s aunt, Bridget Nevin, who travelled to London to watch his fights, struck a more conciliatory note.
“The Traveller community are as proud and the majority of the settled people are too. He has great support from Travellers and the settled community in the town,” she said.
It remains to be seen whether or not publicans in Mullingar will respect the boxer’s call for pubs to remain shut between 5.30pm and 10pm this evening.
According to his mother, Nevin called for the pubs to close during the homecoming event after hearing about the problems his family had in gaining admission.
His reasoning, said his mother, was to prevent publicans from cashing in on his success at a time when his family feel unwelcome in their establishments.
Nevin will be joined on an open-top bus by Olympic show jumper Joseph Murphy. The parade will be led from Patrick Street to Cusack Park at 6.30pm by the Mullingar Town Band and a delegation from Cavan Boxing Club, Nevin’s club.
The parade arrives in Cusack Park at 7.30pm and there will be a press conference involving Nevin and Murphy afterwards.
Though the public screenings were privately organised, Westmeath County Council is organising the homecoming parade.
Spokesman Billy Coughlan said the turnout for Nevin’s semi-final and final showed how much the boxer’s success meant to the people of Mullingar and he expected a huge crowd tonight for the homecoming.