Then & Now

Michael Carruth: Boxer QUEEN ELIZABETH’S VISIT was a comprehensive PR victory for Ireland, helping us get back into the international…

Michael Carruth: BoxerQUEEN ELIZABETH'S VISIT was a comprehensive PR victory for Ireland, helping us get back into the international ring. It might also prove an unlikely boon for Irish boxing, if the dreams of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) become reality. The OCI are confident that next year the Olympic torch will cross the Border into the Republic – with Ireland's two best-known Olympic boxers, Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth, making the cross-Border exchange.

OCI president Pat Hickey says the arrival of the torch has been approved in principle by the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and police on both sides of the Border are in the final planning stage for the operation.

Belfast man McCullough – who won silver in the Olympics in 1992 – and Dubliner Carruth – who won gold the same year – will have no problem holding the Olympic torch aloft and running with it if they are appointed to the task. McCullough, known as the Pocket Rocket, continued to box professionally right up to 2008. Now 40, he lives in the US where he trains young athletes in boxing and mixed martial arts.

Carruth’s career, meanwhile, has taken a slightly leftfield turn – from boxing to Gaelic games. From Walkinstown, and one of triplets, Carruth was trained by his dad Austin. Carruth made headlines when he won Ireland’s first gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Ireland hadn’t taken home a gold medal in 36 years, not since Ronnie Delaney won the 1,500 metres title in Melbourne in 1956.


On his triumphant return to Dublin, local pubs dropped the price of beer to 1956 prices. Carruth was then a corporal in the Irish Army – his victory in Barcelona earned him an immediate promotion to sergeant, but if he was hoping to rise through the ranks in professional boxing, he was to be disappointed. It took a year for his hands to recover from their Olympic pummelling, and his subsequent career was patchy. After losing the IBO light middleweight title to Adrian Stone in 2000, he hung up his gloves for good.

With his career at a crossroads, there was speculation about Carruth’s next move. There was talk of him running for the presidency of the Olympic Council of Ireland, following remarks he made criticising the OCI’s electoral procedures. Instead, he supported the candidacy of Richard Burrows, who was then trounced by sitting president Pat Hickey.

Following his retirement, Carruth went into PR, but his public profile was really lifted when he joined the cast of RTÉ's Celebrity Jigs'n'Reels, showing he could float like a butterfly. No one was surprised when Carruth joined the commentary team for RTÉ's Olympics coverage in 2008, but few anticipated his next move – joining the Westmeath Gaelic football team as their masseur. Carruth had studied sports therapy and holistic massage, and he had played club football as a youth.

Westmeath players should avoid getting injured between June 3rd and 5th next year, because Carruth could be busy around that time – carrying aloft the Olympic torch.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist