Hometown backs Nevin for gold glory
Boxing champ John Joe Nevin has been dubbed the biggest thing to come out of Mullingar since showband star Joe Dolan.
The 23-year-old shuffled and showboated one step closer to gold in the bantamweight division - becoming the town's first boxer to bring home an Olympic medal.
"The whole town is so proud of him that he's going for gold," said Nevin's cousin Kathleen Nevin. "He's the biggest and best thing to come out of Mullingar since Joe Dolan."
The Westmeath town watched on a big screen as Nevin eased into the final after a comfortable 19-14 win against Cuban Lazaro Alvarez Estrada.
More than 1,000 supporters packed into Market Square for the fight, erupting in an excited frenzy amid scenes a few decibels below Bray, Co Wicklow on Thursday for Katie Taylor's history making bout.
Crowds danced in celebration around a statue of showband crooner Dolan and put boxing gloves over the hands, uniting the two local legends of music and sport.
Nevin's near speechless grandfather David said he was amazed by the fight and was certain John Joe, as he is known by most, would secure Ireland's second boxing gold.
Less than an hour before the local boy took to the ring, the crowds cheered on his team-mate Paddy Barnes, who missed out on a final fight by just one point. But he remains the only Irish boxer to win a medal at consecutive Olympics.
Irish Amateur Boxing Association high performance unit head coach Billy Walsh said there was no dishonour in his defeat.
"He's done his whole country proud. Particularly, he's done Belfast proud," said Mr Walsh. "He's been a role model."