Interview by CHRIS DUNNE
YOU could say that Cork woman Cliona Murphy had a ringside seat when Katie Taylor won her memorable Olympic gold medal earlier this month.
But the fact that she prayed for Katie and her opponent in that famous final may hint at the fact that this is not your ordinary boxing fan. In fact, Cliona is an administrator at Katie’s local church, St Mark’s Pentecostal Church in Pearse Street, Dublin. Indeed, this was the venue in which the Douglas woman saw Katie make history with her gold medal-winning bout.
“The atmosphere here in the church was electric on the day of Katie’s fight in her quest for gold,” says Cliona.
“It was packed to capacity and the big screen was set up so everybody, ‘the family’ as we are known as, could have a ringside seat to watch Katie. She is a valued fellow church member and we came together in the church to pray for her and to cheer her to victory. The gallery was crowded — you could hear a pin drop.
“We prayed for her and for her opponent, the Russian girl, Sofya Ochigava, before the fight.”
There was lots of music and celebration. Then the big screen appeared and we all watched the live fight with rapt attention, as you can imagine, like everyone else in the country.”
Along with her reputation as the finest female boxer on the planet, Katie is a religious person and has spoken of her faith and her attendance at the Pentecostal Church — which was where Oscar Wilde was baptised — on several occasions.
“We welcome people where ever they are at. We welcome everybody in.,” says Cliona. “The hope is that they will come to know the Lord personally for themselves and worship where ever they feel most at home.”
This deep-rooted faith is a fundamental part of the Katie Taylor make-up, and is shared by Cliona.
“I came to know the Lord personally when I was living in Germany,” says Cliona, who went to Scoil Mhuire in Wellington Road and then studied German and sociology in UCC.
“I attended an Anglican church in Germany, whose ethos is similar to Catholicism, but they placed an emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ.
“A daily walk with the Lord is what my faith is about. God’s presence being with me through the highs and lows of life.
“Katie has that relationship and she is not embarrassed to come out and say it.
“She has become an inspiration to a lot of people and I think young people in particular might look to her and see that there is someone they can relate to, who has found peace through God.”
Katie’s sister-in-law, Kim is the music director at St Mark’s.
“We look out and care for each other, just like any other family,” says Cliona, who — like Katie — enjoys sports, especially outdoor pursuits, and runs marathons.
“My family have got used to me at this stage and accept my expression of faith,” says Cliona. “I was working for an overseas charity for nearly three years and I saw this role as administrator was vacant. It seemed the right position for me.
“And I came to work here just before the Olympics. The Taylor family join the congregation like everyone else. They do not seek the limelight.”
Cliona says that a spiritual hunger is as real as a physical hunger.
“It can be misplaced. There is a lot of disillusionment out there, which saddens me. The Irish psyche has a spiritual yearning that needs to be filled. Nothing can truly satisfy us, except the one who created us.”
St Mark’s boasts a membership of 600-700 people and with Katie’s right hook beckoning people in from the big poster outside, there will be many more.
“There is something for everyone here,” says Cliona. “For every walk of life and all ages.”
And she does admit to one small weakness. “Ah yes I do enjoy a glass of nice red wine every now and again,” she says with a twinkle. Alleluia!
If people in Cork want to explore Katie’s and Cliona’s faith in Cork, they can attend Donnybrook Church in Lapps Quay, whichb has a Monday prayer meeting at 7.30pm and Sunday Worship service at 11am Founded in 1996 by Rev. Nick Cassidy, its memership has 20 nationalities.