“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali
Twenty-four hours after arriving in Dublin, Muhammad Ali rang his publicist Harold Conrad. “Hey, Hal?” said Ali, “where are all the black people in this country?” “Ali,” replied Conrad, “there aren’t any.”
On 19 July 1972, it took Muhammad Ali 11 rounds to defeat Al ‘Blue’ Lewis at Croke Park. A mere footnote in the larger Ali story, this fight against a game ex-convict from Detroit culminated an extraordinary week in Ireland’s sporting and cultural history. From the moment the world’s most charismatic athlete touched down at Dublin Airport and announced his maternal great-grandfather Abe Grady had emigrated from County Clare more than a century before, the country was in his thrall and, of course, being Ali – he loved it. It was to be a most extraordinary week for both him and the people he met. Ali was both charming and charmed by those who came to pay homage – among them, the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, civil rights campaigner Bernadette Devlin, oscar-winning director John Huston, actor Peter O’Toole and an elderly lady who invited him into her house for a cup of tea.