The Last Golden Cobra comes full circle – a special night for McDonald and the Hylands


When you see the Hyland brothers fighting back tears with the same vigour they once fought tough opponents you realise there was something extra special about Carl McDonald‘s Irish title win on Saturday night.

Although there is always an expectancy, even a pressure, to show respect to your opponent upon having your hand raised – most title wins do have some chest beating element to them.

Bathing gleefully in that ‘I told you so’ moment, taking to the turnbuckle to raise the strap to the crowd like an old school gladiator would a severed opponent;s head and rejoicing in that instinctively macho ‘I am the man’ feeling are often commonplace and somewhat understandable heat-of-the-moment responses.

Domestic title wins don’t only ensure a nice trinket to put on the mantlepiece, they also come wrapped with an opportunity to move to the next level and that is something that is often the topic of conversation in the minutes after such wins.

However, in the case of McDonald, there was almost tears before cheers and certainly no jeers when he beat fellow Jobstown native Dylan McDonagh to claim the vacant Irish super bantamweight title on the ‘Celtic Clash 7’ card.

The kind of raw emotion in the ring and the dressing room following the win was more that of ‘Champ’ than ‘Rocky III’ – if you want to put in boxing movie terms – and most likely because the 29-year-old was looking back rather than forward on Saturday.

McDonald’s manager, Stephen Sharpe, would explain to Irish-Boxing.com the unique narrative behind the fight and explains the emotion came because the win was about more than just boxing.

“Carl v Dylan was a true rarity in Irish boxing and we could be a while waiting on a similar match up.”

“Two local lads from the same community who represented two very successful amateur clubs a stone’s throw from each, who had history as amateurs, going head-to-head for an Irish title as professionals,” he outlined before moving into the family elemenet

“Carl learned his trade under the Paddy Hyland Snr, one of Irelands most respected coaches. When Paddy died Eddie took over the training of Carl. Saturday night’s fight was for the Irish super bantamweight title, the only other fighter to win that title was Paulie Hyland, youngest son of Paddy Hyland.

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“See, this fight wasn’t about just boxing, it was about past achievements, about the memory of a father, a trainer, the past and the present. It was about the Golden Cobra, a final acknowledgment to a legacy.”

“Carl is the last of the Paddy Hyland crop, what a way to bring closure, not closure as in something is finished or forgotten – as Carl ain’t finished and Paddy Hyland will never be forgotten – but more like the travelling full circle.”

Looking deep into the Hyland link and exploring the emotions behind that seem a little unfair of McDonagh. The likable and talented fighter, who moved up a weight to take the fight, is anything but the bad guy in the story. The Jobstown fighter just hadn’t the same backstory going into the fight. 

Sharpe acknowledges this and noted that “for Dylan it was maybe less about the past, probably straight forward community pride and a desire to be champion of Ireland. Some of the sting was removed with Dylan splitting from his former Westside coach Frank Stacey. With Dylan trained by Jonny Lewins for this fight it didn’t feel much like a Golden Cobra v Westside.”

“I never felt from Dylan that he was motivated much by the narrative of the fight, I believe he just wants to succeed as a fighter and Carl was just another fighter. Dylan is a lad of few words, he works hard and is seriously committed to training and developing as a fighter, he is a top lad,” Sharpe continued before explaining that wasn’t the case for McDonald. 

“Carl is the same, but you’re a fool if you don’t think Carl carried a weight on his shoulders going into the fight. This fight meant so much too so many people and Carl knew that. 

“Of course [it meant more to McDonald than McDonagh], Carl was in a sense entering the Lion;s Den to retrieve that which belonged to the Hyland clan, the Golden Cobra family.”

“After the fight we went back to a bar in Tallaght, the belt wasn’t in Carls possession, it was in a seat beside Dinah [mother of the Hyland brothers], she was taking it back home to its rightful place on the mantlepiece. The last of the Golden Cobra crop had brought it home.”

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Some cynics might roll their eyes, something one half of Boxing Ireland won’t accept.

However, for the rare few who didn’t buy into the fairytale element of the win, they would have to admit that Saturday’s fight regardless out of boxing was a win for the sport.

Saturday once again proved there is big personal success on the small hall circuit.

It was in, some degree, the anthitises to the ‘boxing is a business’ argument, with neither fighter likely to earn ‘life-changing’ money from the game, but both gave it all they had for personal pride, love of the game and those around them.

“Regardless of what transpires in McDonald’s career from here on out he has a moment of great personal satisfaction and achievement to look back on and he paid tribute to a family he is close to in the only way he knows how, fighting.

“I don’t need to tell anyone it was real emotion, it was evident to anyone who seen the fight and watched the reaction ringside when Carl’s hand was raised. How could it not be real? you would have to be fairly cold hearted not to be impacted by the background to the fight.” 

Sharpe is another to feel a great sense of achievement and pride after the win. Indeed, you get the sense Saturday would mean as much if not more to him as being part of a team that wins a world title in a sold out stadium.

“It was an amazing feeling to play a part in it all. At the heart of it I’m a boxing fanatic and am so grateful to be involved in nights like this. 

“I’m one half of the promotional team who ran the show, I manage Carl, so, yeah, I did feel a sense of pride but at the end of the day it was Carl who climbed through the ropes,” added the Tallaght boxing man.

“Carl called me the Monday after the fight and told me how grateful he was and that meant a lot too. I’ve a really close relationship with a lot of my fighters, what you give out you get back, that’s a fact, its easy to talk a good talk but what it boils down to is how you treat people.”

Photo Credit: Sharon Flanagan

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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com