Aoife O’Rourke’s rise to stardom had been on the cards. But there was a still an element from “tales from the unexpected” when Castlerea’s golden girl powered her way to glory at the European Elite Boxing Championships in Madrid on August 31st.
The homecoming to West Roscommon was both memorable and overwhelming as a town rowed in together to show its appreciation for a young, unassuming local girl who has never been the bigge
st fan of being the centre of attention.
“I still feel that I’m the same girl from Castlerea that I was before the championships. I was blown away by the support when I came home.
“I was so proud to represent the people of Castlerea, and to win a gold medal for my home town and for County Roscommon.
“I don’t want anything to change. Just because I have a gold medal, I still have to put in the hard yards. I’m not going to be walking around the place with a swelled head. I don’t want any fuss,” she reflected.
It’s that “feet very firmly on the ground” attitude that makes O’Rourke instantly amiable. Her parents Ann and Kevin, alongside her sisters Aisling, Áine, Ailish and Lisa — a handy boxer herself — are proud but very humble about Aoife’s achievements.
And then there’s Paddy Sharkey, her mentor, her coach, and Aoife’s “go-to guy” before fights.
“Paddy has been with me since the first day. He knows me. It meant everything to me to win a gold medal for him. Nothing ever phases him. Nothing is every too much for him,” she revealed.
Aoife tweaked her gameplan slightly ahead of the championships in the Spanish capital. If she performed, the result would take care of itself.
“I’ve always believed in my own ability. But every competition is different.
“This time I wasn’t focussed on the result. The key was to go out and perform. I wanted to go into the ring and give it my best shot.
“I felt totally relaxed. I wasn’t concentrating on winning or losing.”
But win she did, beating Polish southpaw Elziebta Wojcik in the middleweight (75kg) final. Beforehand, she had vowed to stand on the podium and hear Amhrán na bhFiann. Now, as European champion, emotion coursed through her veins. “It’s hard to describe really. When you’re standing there waiting to be presented with your gold medal, it’s a feeling that not too many people get to experience in life. You think of all the sacrifices, and you realise that it has all been worth it.”
For more on Aoife’s success pick up a copy of #WeAreRos a Roscommon Herald Christmas publication in shops now!