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26th Aug 2017

You’ll never beat the Irish… at one thing anyway

Friday afternoon was something else

Darragh Murphy

Well that was something special.

When most fighters fight, it’s a fight. When Conor McGregor fights, it’s an experience.

Love him or hate him, you simply can’t deny the fact that ‘The Notorious’ has really cultivated something special in these past four years. Something that transcends sport and fandom.

As I made my way down the escalator at the T-Mobile Arena following the weigh-ins on Friday afternoon, I was met with the most remarkable sight as hundreds of roaring bodies, draped in green and coated with sweat from the 40° heat, united in one shared desire to simply have a good time.

“That looks like some craic,” I said to the American reporter behind me on the steps.

“That shit’s bananas,” he answered, with a disbelieving shake of his head. “That’s like some tribal shit.”

He’d summed it up perfectly and gave further credence to McGregor’s constant assertion that “when one of us goes to war, we all go to war.”

But while the enigmatic McGregor will be throwing hands in the centre of the ring on Saturday night, this bunch of Irish fans was giving off anything but a violent vibe.

What’s so special about Irish fans is that, whatever the sport, they so seldom let their allegiances cross over into fighting with a rival set of supporters and it was this instant switch into party mode, where strangers wrapped their arms around one another and spilled beer over each other’s shoulders and laughed their way back into the Las Vegas heat that endeared themselves to the venue’s staff.

Employees who you’d have expected to be anxious to usher the throng out instead pulled out their smartphones and started recording this explicit display of fun which they mustn’t see all that often.

Occasional shouts of “Fuck the Mayweathers!” punctured the chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” and “Stand up for the boys in green.” But even when a Mayweather fan would confront one of the Irish to take umbrage with the statement, it always ended with a handshake and an “enjoy the fight!”

Those in GAA jerseys and tricolours didn’t want to fight. They wanted to have a good time.

Obviously the danger exists that, having written this on Friday, Saturday could see carnage between fans of both men involved in the biggest fight of the year but I reckon it’s unlikely.

I’ve been in Las Vegas since Monday night and it was all quiet until Thursday, when the Irish landed in some voice at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York, New York.

It wasn’t long before choruses of Fairytale of New York and Raglan Road did the rounds and, come Friday morning, the strip was awash with pale arms and an almost concerning confidence that McGregor will dismantle the man who has escaped 49 boxing matches unscathed.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every Irish person I’ve spoken to this week has an unwavering certainty that Mayweather will be knocked unconscious on Saturday night. I’ve tried to reason with them and offer them the logic that boxing is a different sport to MMA and that there are levels to the game but they wouldn’t have it. “Fuck off,” is what most of them told me.

McGregor might win this weekend. Reason suggests that he probably won’t. But there won’t be a dropped decibel at the after-party, regardless of the result.

The Irish can be beaten. In every sport, they have been beaten and, in most sports, they’re regularly beaten.

But when it comes to bringing the good times, you’ll simply never beat the Irish.