THE MONAGHAN MAN WHO KNEW MUHAMMAD!

24 June 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By MICHAEL McDONNELL
michael@northern-standard.ie

AS THE world mourned boxing legend of legends Muhammad Ali earlier this month, one Monaghan man, who had become closer to the champ and his people than perhaps anyone else in this country, was also quietly remembering the remarkable person he’d had the privilege of meeting on several occasions over the last 11 years.

Paul McArdle, a Monaghan town native now studying nursing in London had his first handshake with ‘The Greatest’ at the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky in November 2005 — and has been to see him about eight or nine times since then.

We met up with soccer player and martial arts enthusiast Paul at his father Ardle’s house in Cootehill last week, where he showed us various pictures taken with Ali over the years as well as some treasured mementoes including a pair of boxing gloves signed by Ali himself, his wife Lonnie and fellow heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.

Paul, who previously worked in his family’s business, McArdle Printers, explains that Muhammad was always his idol. Now aged 40, he was still very young when Ali’s career in the ring was coming to an end in 1980 and ’81, but when he was about 15 he read Thomas Hauser’s biography, ‘Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times’, and this reinvigorated a lifelong interest in the great man.

As a soccer player, McArdle has lined out for a good few teams down the years, including Monaghan Utd and Armagh City, Fivemiletown Utd, Boyne Rovers and Oriel Celtic. And he also proved that he has some skills in a fighting ring himself, when he won the British and Irish Takeda Championships in Glasgow in 2004.

In the early 2000s Paul had started to think about going to Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. “I wanted to see where he was brought up, the school, where he lived,” he recalls.

But while looking all this up, he became aware of the Muhammad Ali Center project that was being finalised at the ….
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