Belfast Telegraph

Two very divided areas left feeling proud as punch of Tigers Bay fighter Carl Frampton

BY MALACHI O'DOHERTY

There is no mistaking the pride in the faces of neighbours of Carl Frampton, the fighter from Tigers Bay who has made the area famous for a passion apart from the sectarianism which has often been attached to its name.

This is an area shielded from Duncairn Gardens by a huge wall.

Nothing looks bleaker on a rainy Monday in October than the bricks erected to keep neighbour safe from neighbour, though one may easily walk through.

On the Duncairn side, the houses are large three-storey terraces, a reminder in architecture that this was once a prosperous area you would be proud to live in.

Tigers Bay was proud, too.

Upper Mervue Street was the Best Kept street in Belfast in 1982, which would have taken some doing in those turbulent times.

That was five years before Carl Frampton was born.

Now the Union flags hang limp in the rain and boarded shutters on derelict houses opposite are stamped with stencil outlines of the Queen's head, as on the postage stamp, to notify the passing stranger that this place may be decrepit, but it is loyalist.

Martha McBride, at her gate, said it was wonderful to see people "pulling together" in support of the young boxer.

She knew his mother when she lived nearby in Syringa Street.

"It's good for the young ones to see someone getting on like that," she said.

"It's great. Everybody has pulled together. When it comes to sport, religion shouldn't matter."

"He was absolutely fantastic on Saturday night," said Jean Glover.

"My son was at the fight and he says that the atmosphere was fantastic. My son's friend is a Catholic and he absolutely enjoyed it too."

Paddy McDonald said: "He's a good guy, a great boxer. I wouldn't care what he is. He'll go far."

But some people on the Antrim Road were sniffy about the behaviour of some of Carl's supporters.

They have heard stories about his fans chanting loyalist songs, and they take them to heart.

One man said: "It's not about Carl himself. I wish him luck, but some of his supporters would put you off. We don't need that kind of thing."

Richard, further down the road, said that there had often been cross-community support for Belfast boxers, like Paddy Barnes who won bronze in the light flyweight division at the Olympics in London last year.

"I think he's great and it was a great fight and it would be good for all of us if he went all the way.

"As for politics, it's got nothing to do with it.

"Protestants supported Paddy Barnes and there's no reason for Catholics not to back Carl."

Just stopping people at random and every third or fourth person lights up with enthusiasm at the sound of the boxer's name.

"Ah brilliant. Local boy done good. I support him all the way. I hope he gets to be a world champion, he deserves it," said one.

Another man said: "He's from round the corner; he gets a lot of support around here. Very popular on both sides of the road."

Another, getting into his car, stopped only to shout one word: "Brilliant!"

One angry man brought up the story about Frampton supporters "on the Shore Road, chanting that they'd kill the Fenians".

Which is hard to refute if you weren't there, but which surely the man himself doesn't need to answer for.

Another man, Marty, said it was daft to read anything sectarian into the backing for Frampton.

He said: "Go back to when Cliftonville were to play Crusaders at Seaview and the game got called off because of flag protests.

"The supporters from each side walked up Glandore to meet each other and commiserate and say how embarrassing this was.

"Carl would have been part of things like that.

"That's the kind of guy he is; sport trumps the oul' nonsense," he added.

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