Prayers match cries of 'olé!' in Katie's place of worship


BOXER'S FAITH:THERE WAS never any doubt among the congregation of St Mark’s Pentecostal Church on Dublin’s Pearse Street over who was going to take home the gold medal – God was on Katie’s side.

It was standing room only inside the church, which looked more like a stadium than a sacred space with four screens mounted high in a circular formation on the walls; flags; bunting; and more than 400 balloons.

However, it was definitely a place of prayer. God was invoked by Pastor Seán Mullarkey before the fight began. Speaking into a microphone from the stage/altar, he said what the Lord had accomplished on the cross made him “the champion of champions” and he asked that God put that strength into Katie’s arms so she would “bring the gold medal home to Ireland”.

For Katie’s opponent, he prayed that she would come through the bout safely.

In the anxious minutes before the fight began, fuelled by diluted orange and custard creams, the churchgoers spoke with pride of the Bray boxer whose family have attended the church for more than 11 years.

Congregation member Linda Curtis described her as a down- to-earth person who was a wonderful ambassador for sport, particularly for women.

“She’s an unbelievably nice girl. She has great faith but she’s not a religious nut. She’s a normal girl and I think that is what will have sports clubs filling up now around the county, particularly with young girls.”

Geraldine Moore, a member of the Pentecostal Church in Dún Laoghaire, had come into town to watch the fight but with just moments to go was unsure if she’d be able to look. “I’m getting palpitations already. I’ll try to watch it but it might be through my fingers. It’s hard to look at. To be truthful, I don’t like boxing at all but I’d be a great supporter of Katie. It’s great to see all the Irish boxers doing so well.”

As the bell went for the first round, the noise levels in St Mark’s rivalled that of the ExCeL arena and the prayers continued, the congregation alternating their entreaties to Jesus with bursts of “Olé, olé, olé, olé”.

The Pentecostal fellowship has a similar ethos to Methodist and Presbyterian churches but places a particular emphasis on the Holy Spirit.

Katie’s friend Jenny-Belle McCullagh exhorted God to keep his focus on the Irish fighter and she did not let up praising Him to the very end when the referee raised the boxer’s hand in the air.

Although she had been certain God would come through for her friend, the relief was clear in her tears. “I thank and praise God, this has been Katie’s dream since she was seven years old.”

Pastor Mullarkey could not hold back his tears either. “I’m relieved and delighted and elated all at once, I’m crying like a baby.”

A special service would be organised when Katie was home, but this Sunday there would have to be “prayers for the nervous wrecks” he said.