Dungiven came to a complete standstill yesterday evening as it seemed the entire population of the Co Londonderry town came onto the streets to welcome home their number one son, Paul ‘Dudey’ McCloskey.
There was no ambiguity or doubt as to what the people who lined the streets thought about the controversial decision that stopped Saturday night's fight between Dudey and Amir Khan.
The post-fight analyses were still being discussed as the whole town waited for a glimpse of their local hero.
The junior members of the St Canice’s Ladies GFC and St Patrick's Camogie Club had been planning a welcome home song to the tune of Gem of the Roe. They sang beautifully when Dudey's open-topped limousine passed by as it made its way along Main Street.
Sports pundits have already documented their opinions on the fight, but yesterday it was the turn of the people Paul McCloskey has grown up with, works with and lives beside.
Among them was Lee Guy, who has known Dudey all his life.
He watched the fight in Murphy's Bar, which was packed to capacity, and said the air turned “a bit blue” when the referee announced the fight was being stopped.
He said: “‘Dudey’ was robbed, he would have beaten him, but at the end of the day Dungiven will always be proud of what he did.”
Sheila Coyle was one of the hundreds who travelled to Manchester for the fight and her voice was still hoarse from shouting.
She said being in the arena in Manchester was incredible, adding: “The noise from ‘Dudey's’ Army actually drowned out Khan’s fans and that was even after the fight was stopped.”
As well as the physical support, Paul was also getting some spiritual support from the local parish priest, Father Aidan Mullan.
He said: “We prayed that everyone who had travelled to England would get home safely and we prayed that Paul would come home safe too.”
The joy and pride of those who gathered to see their hero did not go unrewarded as McCloskey seemed to know everyone there but kept a good grip on young sons Cian and Oran, who seemed determined to get daddy all to themselves — making sure everyone knew who’s the head of ‘Dudey's’ Army in Dungiven.