Before Katie Taylor, there was Deirdre Gogarty.
After a nearly unbelievable year, with resounding success from Katie Taylor, Amy Broadhurst, Lisa and Aoife O'Rourke, Kellie Harrington and many others, women's boxing in Ireland seems to be at an all-time high. But it's a good time to remember that just a few decades ago women's boxing was illegal in Ireland—not that that stopped the legendary Deirdre Gogarty, the first female professional boxer from Ireland. Today, a committee from her hometown Drogheda is looking to honour her legacy with a statue, commissioned from sculptor Laury Dizengremel. €16,000 has been raised so far, but funding is not yet complete; to contribute, visit the campaign's GoFundMe page here.
In 1991 Drogheda woman Deirdre Gogarty stepped into the boxing room at the back of the Shannon Arms in Limerick for an illegal fight—one which would become legendary and mark the beginning of an incredible fighting career. Although unsanctioned, this would go down as the first boxing bout on Irish soil between two women.
Unable to get a boxing license in Ireland, Deirdre soon made the difficult choice to move to the USA and turn professional to chase a world title. This made Deirdre the first ever Irish female professional boxer.
Just five years after the fight at the Shannon Arms, Deirdre would step into a very different ring—the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where, though she lost, her fierce fight with Christy Martin would prove the spark needed to ignite change in women's boxing.
A year later, Deirdre achieved her dream of becoming world champion after her March 2 1997 victory over Bonnie Canino in Florida to claim the world featherweight title.
This cemented Deirdre's legacy in the sport as Ireland's first female professional boxer and world champion as well as Drogheda's only boxing world champion.
Since retiring in 1998, Deirdre's achievements have been recognized by her induction into International Women's Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015.
Despite being a trailblazer for female athletes, becoming Ireland's first female professional boxer and world champion, and inspiring the next generation of fighters (including Katie Taylor, who wrote to Deirdre as a young girl), Deirdre has yet to receive recognition in her hometown.
Monasterboice native Ciaran Mc Ivor of the Boxing Bants podcast has spearheaded a campaign to have a statue of Deirdre erected in Drogheda, where her story began. The other members of the the Deirdre Gogarty Legacy Committee are Nathalie Kelly of the Drogheda Dolls, Louth County Councillor Joanna Byrne, Sinéad Brassil of LMFM radio, and David Thornton of Drogheda boxing club. €16,000 has been raised thus far for the statue, but the campaign has a long way to go. To contribute, visit the committee's GoFundMe page, linked at the top of this article.